My story on the Logan Heights area, where an abundance of convenience marts and limited grocery options make accessing affordable nutritious food a special challenge for low-income residents, painted a not-so-heartening picture of the community’s food scene.
It certainly faces serious long-term challenges in improving access to fresh foods for the poor and those without transportation to supermarkets outside the area.
But as the story suggested, some residents are optimistic that the situation will improve, and they’re trying to guide it in the right direction. Though a major supermarket may still be a long way off, they think access can be improved through a series of smaller-scale improvements to the neighborhood’s existing landscape.
David Alvarez, a representative for state Sen. Denise Ducheny, said there has been some discussion among local leaders about the possibility of turning some of the neighborhood’s many vacant parcels into community gardens, where neighbors can grow their own produce. Across the country, they’ve gained popularity among communities of sustainable food advocates, as well as in lower-income urban neighborhoods where empty lots are abundant.
“It’s something we should really start taking a look at because a good number of people in the community have a good green thumb,” Alvarez said. “Why not take a vacant empty lot and turn it into something positive that becomes a positive image for the community?”
Jerry Guzman-Vergara, assistant director of the Sherman Heights Community Center, said that’s what he hopes for the open-air farmers’ market the center recently inaugurated.
Although the once-weekly market the center recently inaugurated has struggled to get farmers to make a weekly commitment to show up, as local attendance has risen in recent weeks, so has vendors’ interest.
Last weekend, the market expected to host three certified farmers. Before then, the only dedicated vendor was Tierra Miguel Farms, a nonprofit North County organization that among other things tries to increase access to organic produce for underserved communities.
“Little by little we’re seeing it work out,” Guzman-Vergara said.
He’s also thought about how leaders could coordinate with small business owners to improve fresh food selections.
“My ultimate dream would be to work with local markets and bring in more variety,” he said.
The small produce vendor who recently set up shop in the largely-empty Farmers Market building on Imperial Avenue is optimistic that as word gets out about the business, he’ll be able to expand into a larger-scale fresh food market.
Have thoughts on food access in Logan Heights or other San Diego neighborhoods? Write me at email@example.com.