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SDSU Students Take On National City Food Deserts

Brightside Produce team members stand outside the Big B market in National Ci...

Photo by Ebone Monet

Above: Brightside Produce team members stand outside the Big B market in National City, March 16, 2018.

Marketing students at San Diego State University have an opportunity to apply what they’re learning while running a business.

Brightside Produce was co-founded by Dr. Iana Castro. The assistant professor of marketing says her course, "Marketing and Sales for Social Impact," gives students real world experience.

“By exposing them to different areas of San Diego, they’re learning about different needs, different customers and just learning about how they can make a big difference in the community and that’s really really valuable,” said Castro.

Photo by Ebone Monet

Brightside Produce student team members load a truck with produce, March 16, 2018.

Since June 2017, Brightside Produce has distributed produce to stores in National City, where about a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.

“We thought it would be a great place to start the program, because of the number of small stores that essentially were not carrying produce but were the primary source of food for a lot of residents in the community,” said Castro.

Participating students work directly with store owners, taking and filling orders. They also make weekly deliveries to partnering stores.

“I was going to take another elective, where it was like every other typical marketing class, where you read from the book and listen to lectures," said Shannon Reynolds, a senior marketing major at SDSU. "And this class, actually, we’re out here doing the work. So I think it’s a really good experience and I like what we’re doing and making an impact in the community.”

Brightside Produce has gone from five to twelve stores. The company focused on food deserts, communities lacking fresh food and vegetables and are more than a mile away from a supermarket, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Many of Brightside’s participating students are graduating in May. Next semester, there will be a new batch of students making up the store relations, marketing communications and buying teams.

“It’s an honor for me to be involved and see how much they learn and grow over the course of a semester,” said Castro.

A student-run program delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to independent stores in underserved communities.

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