By C.J. SALGADO
EAST LOS ANGELES –Some kids painted a perimeter fence. Others just painted vegetables and fruits on paper for fun or thrashed about wildly on mounds of mulch. But serious work also went on as parents, kids, and others built over two dozen raised gardening beds in East L.A.’s first community garden
The community garden now underway at the Eastmont Community Center is part of the Little Green Fingers program of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LA Corps), and partially funded by First 5 LA, a child advocacy and grant-making organization. The construction of the garden began after holding some planning meetings in the fall.
Deborah Fryman, a Senior Program Manager for LA Corps, said that eventually lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, and other veggies or fruits would be grown in these beds, depending on the season. Following an application process, local families will be “assigned” to care for them with priority given to those with pre-school children.
The Little Green Fingers program seeks to address the growing obesity epidemic by providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables to young at-risk children in low-income areas by creating this type of community gardens which will allow them learn gardening skills, get nutrition information, and even try their little hands at being a chef! Luckily, the Eastmont Community Center where the garden is located has a kitchen that will be used by the community to cook the delicious and healthy bounties from the garden. The aim is to help little kids and their families to lead healthier lives and maintain healthier weights.
With the goal of building 8 community gardens by 2017, several have already been built in Los Angeles County but this is the first one in East L.A., according to Kea Duggan, Marketing Director of the LA Corps, whose members are actively leading and working to complete this garden by January. With blueprints in one hand and hammers in the other, their members are essential to establish this community garden. However, once the garden is done and funding is exhausted, the garden is to then be turned over fully to the community to continue for the long-term. That’s why committed community members are so important, providing a valuable opportunity for kids to learn many things, including to be responsible.
There certainly appears to be a need for community gardens like this one being built in East L.A, particularly with the overwhelming presence of fast food venues in low-income, underserved communities. In fact, Ms. Duggan said that 1 in 5 children are overweight or obese in Los Angeles County. Further, only 18 percent of grocery stores in East L.A. sell fresh fruits and vegetable of good quality, according to the LA Corps.
Community members who may be interested in participating in the garden may contact the Eastmont Community Center at (323) 726-7998.
C.J. Salgado is a resident of East Los Angeles