Many thanks to Raffaella for today’s guest post about Valley Verde, a non-profit in San Jose dedicated to helping low-income families grow organic gardens.
When I moved to California four years ago from Italy, I was excited to move to the birthplace of the organic food movement, and to raise my child in a place that is considered the fruit basket of the world. I was not expecting to see such imbalance and injustice in access to fresh vegetables and fruit. Low-income communities are drastically underserved when it comes to healthy food options. I started a journey exploring different ways to be part of real change. I wanted work that promotes justice and fairness and better food for all our children.
I found in Valley Verde a way to create a fair and sustainable society. Valley Verde is a non-profit organization in San Jose. The mission is to promote the cultivation of organic home vegetable gardens to encourage healthier eating and address food insecurity in the Silicon Valley. We provide low-income families with the knowledge and tools needed to grow and maintain their own organic vegetable gardens. The families receive one or two raised bed gardens, according to space and family size, an irrigation system, classes (about gardening and nutrition), seeds and seedlings, and a gardening mentor who will give gardening support for one year. The goal of the one year program is to empower the families with the vegetable gardening knowledge to continue their own gardens. Families who wish to share their knowledge can continue to participate with Valley Verde by helping other families learn the same valuable skills.
We started last fall with a group of 24 families in Gilroy and now we are recruiting new families in San Jose and Gilroy for the spring planting season. In order to support and expand the free services offered to the low-income community, we also started selling garden installations and maintenance services as well as “do-it-yourself” kits to residents of Santa Clara County who would like to start a garden.
To illustrate the impact of access to fresh organic vegetables, I would like to tell you about one of the participants in our program in Gilroy. A mother of two, her children would never eat beets, because she could only afford to buy the canned variety and they did not like the taste. Now that they grow their own, her children love beets, and the rest of the vegetables that they grow. We all know that fresh organic vegetable taste better, and are better for you and we believe everyone should have access to those benefits.
Valley Verde’s Executive Director, Raul Lozano, has a plan to start a real revolution in the Silicon Valley. With the help of corporate sponsors and donations, in 10 years, we want to provide free gardens to as many as 3,000 low income families.
I like to quote the eco-chef and food justice activist, Bryant Terry, who recently said: “Unless small start-ups, food incubators and local food movements are equipping the communities to become their own leaders, directors and ultimately self-sustaining, you’re just playing games”. This is our call to action!
Raffaella, Program Assistant at Valley Verde.
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