Atwater council dishes out $5,000 for produce stand

By Tony Cella

The Atwater Village Neighborhood Council will provide a $5,000 grant to design and build a produce stand to benefit Taking The Reins, a local non-profit that offers farming and horsemanship classes to underprivileged young women.

After debating the issue at last week’s meeting, the majority of board members voted in favor of allocating almost 14% of the council’s annual budget for the produce stand the organization plans to build on the back of its equestrian property facing the L.A. River.

The stand will sell produce grown as part of the organization’s urban farming class, according to the group’s Programming Director, Janiene Langford. The students, 65% of whom receive a full scholarship to participate in the program, will also work the stand to develop “business skills.”

Males are eligible to volunteer with the program, but the classes are only open to females, a facet which board member Sergio Lambarri cited as his main reason for opposing the grant. Lambarri said  it was inappropriate for taxpayer money to fund programming that discriminated against males.

“If we were to replace gender with race, religion or creed, the whole group would be up in arms,” said Lambarri, one of only two board members who voted against the measure (a third abstained).

Education representative James Heugas motioned to slim the grant to $3,000 because the  $5,000 grant would gobble up the council’s entire community group budget. The board member, who supported the idea of the program, noted that the neighborhood council last year denied the Friends of Atwater Elementary’s $3,500 to fund an afterschool program because the sum was equal to the entire education budget for the year. The council instead gave the group $1,167.   Heugas’ proposal to reduce the produce stand grant failed, however.

Some board members also expressed doubts about the grant because they questioned whether the group, which only has about two students from the neighborhood, was involved with Atwater. But treasurer Lara Pranger pointed out the grant goes toward a project focused on selling locally grown produce in the neighborhood.

“The entire purpose of the program is to reach into the community,” she said.

Tony Cella is a freelance reporter who has covered crime and grime in Los Angeles, New York City and the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Click here to contact Cella with questions, comments or concerns.

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