Homeboy Rising: Ex-Gang Bangers Stake Out Supermarket Turf

Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.
chips
With a little luck, Homeboy will be in the chips. (Photo: Homeboy Industries)

Homeboy Industries is betting that chips and salsa will do for the L.A.-based nonprofit what salad dressing did for Newman's Own, the food company that donates 100 percent of its profits to charity.

Earlier this month Homeboy Industries—which operates a bakery, catering business and restaurant, among other things—began selling salsas based on recipes developed by their chef Patricia Zarate in hundreds of Ralph's supermarkets in Southern California. 

Father Greg Boyle, who founded the nonprofit to help former gang members turn their lives around, said its entry into the world of snacking has been an unparalleled success:

We're the No. 1 snack item. In the first week, we sold 8,793 units of chips and 10,287 units of salsa.

Unlike its other food businesses, Homeboy doesn't manufacture the chips and salsa it sells under the HB logo; that work has been contracted out to area businesses.

The organization receives a portion of the sales, which help offset the costs of its tattoo removal services, job training classes, free counseling, substance abuse support, housing assistance and relationship seminars.

The logo on the salsa and chips packaging, "jobs not jails," sums up Boyle's philosophy that "nothing stops a bullet like a job."

The organization hopes the snacks can open a new revenue stream to help avoid the boom-and-bust cycle of fundraising that forced painful cuts last year—including laying off 330 staffers.

Last year emergency donations helped cover the group's $5 million operating budget, saving the organization from being shuttered.

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