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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Relief From Ramen: USC's Healthy Food Fair

Sara Lev |
October 29, 2014 | 11:59 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Students lined up on McCarthy Quad to sample local, healthy food at ESA's Healthy Food Fair. (Ashley Seruya/Neon Tommy)
Students lined up on McCarthy Quad to sample local, healthy food at ESA's Healthy Food Fair. (Ashley Seruya/Neon Tommy)

Whether it be to save for our tuition or catch an extra few minutes of sleep, as college students, we often resort to surviving on microwavable ramen noodles and mac and cheese.

In these instances, our health takes a back seat… and we can’t let that happen. So free healthy food? Count me in. 

That’s likely what drew the crowd at USC’s Healthy Food Fair on Tuesday, Oct. 28, from 11am until 2pm on McCarthy Quad, sponsored by the Environmental Student Assembly (ESA).

Restaurants from all over Los Angeles came to the Quad to promote their sustainable, eco-friendly cuisine. Students not only got free food, but also, ESA gave out free eco-friendly Tupperware (who doesn’t like free swag?).

The Fair gathered a wide variety of students from all over campus - those who RSVP’d through the Facebook event, and others who were just curious, such as freshman Clarissa James, who was sitting in Doheny and wanted to see what was going on in the Quad: “I was studying and I saw free food on the Quad so I came down. It’s good to know there are other options out there besides Chipotle.”

That’s exactly what the Fair intended to promote - healthy, sustainable, local restaurants that are not, indeed, the beloved Chipotle. 

Missed out the the event? No worries, here's Neon Tommy's roundup of everything there was to see.

Azla Vegan

Azla Vegan serves interpretations of Ethiopian dishes infused with Californian vegan cuisine. Their menu also highlights organic and local produce. Conveniently located only a short walk from campus, Azla Vegan is a great option for vegans and non-vegans alike. At the booth, they served samples of their dish “Shimbra”, which was a kale and chickpea salad topped off with lemon tahini, in addition to “Misir”, spicy red lentils paired with rice.

Freshman Jane Li noted that, “the flavor was really good - it wasn’t bland. I’d be up for trying Azla Vegan.”

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Azla Vegan offers a 10 percent discount (yes, all you college students, I said discount) to USC students, faculty and staff. Bonus: they also deliver.  


Homeboy is not only a healthy dining option, but also a nonprofit organization that takes people who were formerly incarcerated or in gangs and aims to give them a second chance at reestablishing their lives through a steady job and an education. In this way, Homeboy patrons can feel good about what they are putting into their bodies as well as what they are putting back into the local community.

At the Fair, students had the choice of sampling spinach and mint limeade with either a black bean tostada or a chicken mole tostada.

Brittany Fleck, a sophomore, opted to try the limeade and the black bean tostada: “The limeade was the best. The green color was intimidating, but did me well. I also tried a delicious bean tostada. I’m not a huge bean fan, but it was good!”

Homeboy has a bakery/café and a diner each located less than 15 minutes by car from campus, as well as a food truck.

Two students sampled Amazebowls' infamous acai bowls. (Ashley Seruya/Neon Tommy)
Two students sampled Amazebowls' infamous acai bowls. (Ashley Seruya/Neon Tommy)


Of course, the beloved Amazebowls, the brainchild of a group of USC alumni, brought their truck to the fair.  

Amazebowls definitely had the biggest crowd - a testament to customer loyalty. Their acai bowls are vegan, soy-free, and dairy-free, but that does not mean they are taste-free.

Their smooth, sweet and cool blended acai, topped with fresh fruit, coconut shavings and granola was a much needed snack on such a hot day. It’s easy to fall in love with acai - not only is it delicious, but acai is also a super-fruit, which is packed with anti oxidants.

Looking for more? Their truck is parked just seconds from USC campus at the corner of Hoover and Jefferson from 9:30am through 7pm Monday through Thursday, and from 3pm through 7pm on Fridays.

Mixt Greens

Founded in San Francisco, Mixt Greens' goal is to craft the best salad while using sustainable operations (of course this was founded in San Francisco.)

Mixt Greens offered samples of two of their salads. One was the “Siam with Tofu Salad”, which included mixed greens, green papaya, jicama, mango, cucumber, spicy peanuts and marinated tofu with thai-lemongrass vinaigrette.

I tried this one, and it was by far my favorite food of the afternoon. I’m no food critic, but the sweetness of the papaya, jicama and mango perfectly complemented the bitter greens and spicy peanuts. The other option was the “Cowboy Salad”, which had romaine, grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, black beans and a blue cheese dressing with a honey chipotle drizzle.

Freshman Joel Hanson enjoyed the “Cowboy Salad”, saying “I found the mix of peppers and grilled chicken to be delightful. Really good. I would definitely go to Mixt!”

Only a fifteen minute ride away, I’d definitely go back to Mixt Greens, too. 

Juice Crafters provided a mini food truck full of healthy juice samples. (Ashley Seruya/Neon Tommy)
Juice Crafters provided a mini food truck full of healthy juice samples. (Ashley Seruya/Neon Tommy)

Juice Crafters

Into the juicing trend, or looking for a trendy juice spot within short driving distance from USC? Look no further - Juice Crafters is only a fifteen minute drive from USC.

Aiming to promote better body performance and overall well-being, Juice Crafters uses 100 percent natural, local ingredients for their juices. They offered a wide variety of samples, including the super popular, but healthy, green juice.

I had never understood the concept of green juices, so I decided to try “Greenest #3”, which included kale, romaine, spinach, parsley, celery, apple, lemon and ginger. The spiciness of the ginger and the bitterness of the parsley were a bit overwhelming for me, but they had other juices for the non-greenies, like “Cleaner #10” which was a combination of pineapple, apple and mint – good and good for you.

Leno Juice Bar

In case you just can’t get enough juice, Leno Juice bar is a neighbor to USC, located on South Figueroa at 27th Street.  They pride themselves on their use of organic ingredients for their juices, smoothies and acai bowls. On site, you can even mix it up and create your own juice with their wide variety of fruit and vegetable juices, along with protein-filled nut milks. Freshman Kaylie Kennerson, after trying the coconut water, said that  “it was surprisingly refreshing, and I really liked it… even though I don’t like coconut!” Impressive feat, Leno Juice bar!

The Healthy Food Fair highlighted that USC students are indeed living the foodie dream - as students in Los Angeles, we have accessibility to healthy, delicious and innovative food. The fair showcased only a few of the many options around LA that we can access. I don’t know about you, but it sure tempted me to explore LA…. purely for the food.  So when you can, skip the ramen noodles.  Walk, find a friend with a car, or tap Uber. Don’t miss out!

Reach Staff Reporter Sara Lev here.



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