Now that spring has sprung bringing warmer temperatures and longer days, it’s perfect timing for gardening with a purpose. A food justice purpose.
Sadly, in today’s food system, what low-income neighborhoods lack in supermarkets they make up for it in fast-food restaurants and liquor stores, emphasizing convenience while compromising the health in our communities.
Recently, I paid a visit to Mount Hope Community Garden in southeast San Diego, located in the heart of the inner-city. After hearing such wonderful things about urban gardening, I decided to reach out to a local organization, Project New Village. The meeting was set up with Executive Director, Diane Moss along with community partner Kadumu Moyendo.
When I arrived, I spotted Moyendo, who was the first to arrive for our meeting sitting in a chair in a covered area, surrounded by colorful, artsy garden furniture facing the garden which is situated on approximately an acre of land. Evidently, the lot which was once vacant, has now been transformed into a community garden located right off of Market street near the 805 south freeway in San Diego.
As I pulled up a chair to join him, an overwhelming feeling of calmness filled my spirit. Perhaps I felt peaceful and serene because I was sitting outside facing a garden, filled with fruit trees and vegetables, in an urban environment that’s geared towards providing healthy food alternatives for the community. In fact, I was so calm that the sounds coming from the busy traffic seemed to have silenced during our casual conversation.
Moyendo and I talked about his New York roots, the wonderful work being done to promote food justice by Gangsta Gardener Ron Finley, edible plants and composting. Since I wasn’t quite clear on what the term composting actually meant, I asked Moyendo to explain. He explained that it’s basically the pile up yard and garden waste that sits for a few months, then becomes organic superfood for your garden.
Now, this is what food justice is all about, teaching community members to embrace growing, and knowing about the resources of our earth.
Shortly after, Moss joined us and shared her determination to make a difference in promoting healthy eating among people of color. She addressed the inequities in our community food system which is what led her to start the garden in 2011. She also added in that the overall goal of Project New Village is based on a food justice model that ensures the benefits and risks of how food is grown and processed. As clearly stated in the organization’s mission statement, the objective is that Southeastern San Diego serves as a catalyst for local residents, businesses, academia and government to work together to build stronger neighborhoods, improve the quality of life and to stimulate collective investment in better health.
Although Mount Hope Community Garden is the first community garden located in Southeastern San Diego, according to Moss, there are now approximately 4 community gardens in the area and 84 throughout the city of San Diego.
Planted throughout the community garden you’ll find fresh kale, collards, onions, tomatoes, asparagus, colorful edible flowers and plants, apple, loquat and pomegranate trees, all growing and thriving on a once vacant lot in Southeastern San Diego. Also in the garden you will find individual plots sponsored by organizations in the community, one of which belongs to The Black Storytellers of San Diego, an organization which Moyendo is a member. The cost is only $5.00 per month!
The wonderful work that Project New Village is doing, expands beyond the Mt. Hope community garden. In October of 2015, an extension of Project New Village called the Peoples Produce Project, celebrated the re-opening of a certified Farmers Market, the only outdoor marketplace in Southeastern San Diego that accepts and promotes food stamp/EBT use. The market provides a venue for economic opportunities for neighborhood growers and entrepreneurs, and offers free health screenings, education and referrals. The new and improved market operates Wednesdays, 5 – 8pm, and is located at 1655 Euclid Ave. San Diego, CA 92105.
The organization also hosts a growers group and recently hosted a screening of the Film ‘Gangsta Gardner’ featuring Ron Finley, of South Los Angeles who shares the same passion for food justice.
It’s truly a blessing to witness the work of community members Diane Moss and Kodumu Moyendo, for their efforts in making sure that underserved communities learn to become more health conscious, while revolutionizing the food production process.
Make sure to check out Project New Village at http://www.projectnewvillage.org/growers-group/