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San Diego non-profit provides homegrown produce for City Heights residents facing food insecurity

Food insecurity can be especially painful during the holiday season. KPBS Speak City Heights reporter Jacob Aere looks at a local effort to deliver fresh produce, straight from the garden, to those who need it the most.

Whether it’s fruits or vegetables, the little red wagon outside of Britany Rodarte’s house in the Rolando neighborhood of San Diego is often full of her community's excess produce.

She’s the founder of Dietitian Cooks, a non-profit organization that encourages people to donate their excess fruit and vegetables from the store, or their gardens, to those in need.

“I thought, ‘Hey I see so many fruit trees here, full of fruit, maybe even on the ground rotting. I would love to take advantage of that resource and give it to people that are hungry,'” Rodarte said.

Jacob Aere
Fruits and vegetables are stacked inside of carboard boxes on a red wagon, Dec. 6, 2021.

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rodarte took to baking and donated bread through a North County charity.

As the pandemic raged on and food insecurity became more pronounced throughout San Diego County, she noticed that fresh produce was hard to come by at most food donation centers.

That inspired her to start the Produce for the People program at the beginning of 2021 and rally her local community.


“Currently we are growing cold season produce. So we have things like snow peas and all the brassicas — things like kale, romanesco and broccoli,” Rodarte said, gesturing to her home garden.

Jacob Aere
Kale seedlings grow inside of red plastic cups alongside other fruits and vegetables, Dec. 6, 2021.

The Produce for the People program also encourages environmental sustainability, whether it's growing your own food or cutting back on food waste.

Plus, Rodarte said produce drop-offs that aren’t high enough quality don't go to waste — they help feed her chickens, which eventually leads to eggs that can be donated.

“So we ranged for about 6 months, but it was about 700 pounds of produce,” she said. “Since then I would say at least 1000 pounds of produce have been donated from these efforts.”

The fresh fruits and vegetables are distributed with other food items at The Brown Building, a community center in City Heights, on Thursdays by the mutual aid group, We All We Got SD.

Jacob Aere
A sign in a foreign language is seen on the vivid, artistic exterior of The Brown Building in City Heights, Dec. 6, 2021

Produce for the People also has a second dropbox for people to donate in North Park.

In the near future, Rodarte plans to expand the non-profit’s reach through a new program called “sponsor a family vegetable box,” which sources produce from local farms.