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Mt. Hope Community Garden Re-Opens With Focus On Food Justice

Speaker 1: 00:00 Against the backdrop of city buses, engines, revving and concrete sidewalks is an urban Oasis of nutrition in San Diego's Mount hope neighborhood. Fruits, vegetables and herbs grow with the Mount hope community garden. And until recently the gardens future was up in the air. I stopped by the garden to speak with Diane Moss, managing director of project new village who oversees the garden about the vision to turn the area into a hub for good food underneath Speaker 2: 00:27 project new village. Is this garden Mount hope community garden? Yes, it is a small part of a big picture. Explain all that. So we've been doing this work in Southeastern San Diego since 2010 and we've defined this area between uh, Euclid and the 15 freeway is what we call the good food district. And in that district we plan to put a hub here, right? We recently got a grant or to work with farmers, so a group of farmers to work together to grow the food. And then we got a loan from a national nonprofit so that we could buy this property from the city. So with that, what we plan to do is to put a grocery store here where a significant amount of what's sold in the store comes from the neighborhood we make it or we grow it so that we're increasing the wealth and the health by virtue of eating the food that we grow in the neighborhood where we are. Speaker 2: 01:20 And also tell me a bit more about that because not only are you increasing the health in the neighborhood, but there's a lot of education that goes along with that too. Correct? Yes. We do want to say that food is not cheap, and so when you buy food that's cheap, somebody gets cheated, usually the grower of the food. So we want to grow food here in an ethical way and really educate folks to the true cost of food so that everyone is treated ethically, the consumer and the person who grew or put the food on the table. And how do you do that though? I, you know, if you're in an area where there are few economic resources, how do you square that? But a few things. Some people don't look at two subsidies as I'm purchasing power, but it is. And what we also want to do is to try out something called TimeBanking so that people put in time helping us with our projects, whether you water or call people, it's worth whatever it's worth for for an hour. Speaker 2: 02:16 And then we want to bank that. So when you go to purchase food at this market that we make, you have an account because of the sweat equity you put in on the front end to buy food. People are doing this, bartering, well, we want to do it with food and see what happens. So it's really a feasibility study and the self-determining practices of farmers in this area, but people also who live here to consume food, to know that for everyone to benefit, everyone has to share the risk and the benefits. And this particular garden, it's not just farmers that are growing food in here. Tell me about that. I'd say the majority of the people who grow food here, they want the experience of growing food or the healing aspect being in a garden. So there are people that live in the neighborhood that see the value of spending time in a garden. Speaker 2: 03:04 Most are not farmers or growers or food for for distribution. Yeah. Yeah. A lot of people who are, who kind of just come and want to learn how to grow collard greens and what else is growing out here? So we've got collard greens, we just had a, this was the year for us last year of the black eyed pea. So we grew a lot of black IPS because culturally you can't really start the year without having black eyed peas. We have also tropical kinds of things that people said would not grow. There's passion fruit here. We have Japanese Kiwi in the back. Um, bananas. So there are a lot of different things that are [inaudible] growing here. How long have you been doing this? So I started working in food justice about 2008. I never knew what, who justice was, but I went to a conference and saw that. That's what, uh, that was what was happening here. Speaker 2: 03:53 There was an injustice here. We don't have a scarcity of food. It's decisions about where food will be distributed. That's where the issue is. My background is community organizing and advocacy. So we need to change some rules so that all of us can have access to [inaudible]. Cause I wanted to ask, what do you, what are the conditions that create food deserts and food insecurity within communities? So the most part it's, it's, it's decisions that are made about who could have food, where the food is grown, what food is subsidized, right? At the federal level, we have a farm bill, the farm bill controls, uh, snap or food stamps. And if they cut food stamps and people have less ability to get food, right. And if you look at the stores that we have in our neighborhoods, it's very hard for you to find anything that says organic. Speaker 2: 04:38 Not that that's the indoor, but the quality of food here is different than it is in other places. And it's usually an economically driven or a politically driven agenda. It's not anything that's wrong with the residents or the people that live in that space. What's the value in people or within a community knowing how to grow their own food so we don't have access to the best quality of food where we are. So we want to ensure that you know where your food comes from and know the nutritional value and that there were no chemicals or anything used on the food. You know exactly what happened to the food from the seed to your table and let's, I want to circle back to the question about education because um, part of it is not only knowing where the food is sourced from, but also what's good to eat, what's healthy to eat, how to prepare meals. Speaker 2: 05:29 Tell me about that. We partner a lot with nutritionists and particularly with the County of San Diego so that we have people come out and talk about recipes and sharing of recipes and how to cook foods where you don't cook the new vision, nutritional value in. I find a lot of value here in cultural sharing. I grew up where you collard greens, you put them in a pot with water and you boil them forever. But I talked to others here. Now I mostly stir fried my greens or steamed the greens and make them into like a where you can make a rap growing up. That's not what we did with collard greens. You got your saute in green. [inaudible] said, okay. Some guy told me at the farmer's market the other day, he puts it on the grill. I, you know, I heard, I went to a Juneteenth celebration and that's how they do the greens. Speaker 2: 06:18 They put them on a grill and or either used him as a wrap. They said that's what they did in Texas. Way back when I said, okay. All right. Um, now I want you to talk to me a bit about the funding that you got to buy this land. How difficult was that? It was an incredible of opportunity. So the national nonprofit we worked with was the conservation fund. We met them through the San Diego regional food system Alliance. We're both members and what, and so being at our table, looking at who our partners were and what we were trying to do and sincere, uh, they made us a proposition. If we could raise $100,000 in 60 days, they would give us a loan to buy. This property sounded incredible to us at the time, but we did it. It's cash and pledges. So we were able to do that by October and then November they gave us the loan, and then in December we got the deed. Speaker 2: 07:13 We, we bought this land. How'd that feel? Incredible. It's an incredible leap. We are a grassroots small organization with very little staff. So this really ups our game in terms of the potential of what we can do here with ownership. You call yourself a a food activist fighting for food justice. We do. Um, why is this something you're so passionate about? Because I think that all of us would have good food buy right? And when we don't, and I go other places and it's there, I want to work real hard to make sure it's here. I live here too. I'm working with my neighbors every day to change these conditions. Speaker 1: 07:48 That was Diane Moss, managing director of project new village. [inaudible] Speaker 3: 07:57 [inaudible].

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Diane Moss, Managing Director of Project New Village, who oversees Mt. Hope Community Garden, spoke with Midday Edition's Jade Hindmon about the vision to turn the area into a hub for good food.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments