Amid carrots, cabbages and collard greens, hope grows in a community garden in Southeastern San Diego and in small farms in rural North County.

Local organizations such as Project New Village and Foodshed are addressing disparities in the food system by making healthier food more accessible.

“A food system is a complex order of things coming together so we get our food,” said Diane Moss, managing director of Project New Village. “We have to grow food, we have to distribute food, we have to cook food, consume food, what we do with waste. It’s anything that deals with how we access and deal with food as humans.”

Traditional food systems historically have failed marginalized communities, Moss said. Many low-income neighborhoods are considered “food swamps,” where there is a constant exposure and significantly easier access to foods with little nutritious value, resulting in health problems for many residents.

Project New Village is a nonprofit dedicated to removing barriers in these communities that impede access to nutritious foods. They manage Mt. Hope Community Garden and operate the Farmstand, the only farmer’s market in Southeastern San Diego that accepts food stamps/EBT, according to the nonprofit’s website.

“I think what we’re trying to do is work with our communities to change our relationship with food,” Moss said. “We are really encouraging people to grow your own food, or know people who grow your food.”

Foodshed is a majority Black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC), farmers-owned cooperative that shares similar goals with Project New Village.

“If we’re gonna try to ensure that there is access for everyone in San Diego to fresh, healthful food, then we need to make sure that it is two things: that it’s affordable and that it’s accessible,” said Ellee Igoe, a co-founding farmer of Foodshed.

Debuting in March 2020, Foodshed began with a plan to aggregate from five farms in North County and distribute food to 60 families in marginalized communities. When COVID-19 hit, the organization saw a need to upscale its initial plans, adding 27 farms and distributing to 400 families a week, including those in the Pauma Valley and City Heights.

Project New Village and Foodshed will collaborate this fall on a mobile farmers market meant to increase the availability of healthy foods and encourage people to buy locally in central and southeastern San Diego.

Both organizations want to emphasize the personal responsibility of supporting small, climate conscious farms and gardens. Moss sees it as an economic investment in the community.

“If you listen to the news you’ll hear a lot of negative things about where we live from a variety of social lenses, but we need people to know that there’s good things that happen here,” she said. “The economy, we can do something about that here… there’s a part that we can play that will be pivotable to moving to a better space.”

Jessica M. Arenas is a member of the U-T Community Journalism Scholars Program for high school students.

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