I worked in South Los Angeles for 3 years, and one of the things that really struck me about the community was how far away the nearest grocery store was. The junior high school I taught at had a liquor store around the corner (which has very interestingly been replaced by a Starbucks in recent years), and the nearest grocery store was 5+ miles away. For many of my students, I noticed that they didn’t have convenient access to healthy fruits and vegetables, and brought in what may be the worst snack of all — flaming Hot Cheetos (the fire red stains from their hands gave my assignments a lovely late evening hue).
So, what were the options within that 5 mile radius? Jack in the Box, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken … sure, you could access a plethora of questionable fried food establishments, but what about – an apple?
The lack of healthy food and nutrition education contributed to my students often feeling highly lethargic, sick, and not able to concentrate throughout class. Not eating healthily was not only affecting them physically, but it was also hindering their academic performance.
My friend Ariel Dekovic introduced me to an West Oakland based non-profit, City Slicker Farms, helping to mitigate the problem of no access to healthy food. The mission of City Slicker Farms is to empower West Oakland community members to meet the immediate and basic need for healthy organic food for themselves and their families by creating high-yield urban farms and backyard gardens. When City Slicker Farms first opened, there was nowhere in West Oakland to be able to buy fresh, healthy food.
But then City Slicker Farms quickly converted empty spaces in the neighborhood into farming lots. One West Oakland resident donated a plot of land to be used for City Slicker Farms, and soon there were neighborhood committees being formed to tend to the land, the “compost committee” and the “chicken committee”.
Today City Slicker Farms consists of seven Community Market Farms (spaces open to the public), over 100 Backyard Gardens, a weekly Farm Stand, a greenhouse, and Urban Farming Education programs.
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