By Tatei Thomas

Boyle Heights residents braved triple digit heat last weekend and participated in an interactive community meeting co-hosted by Boyle Heights Beat and Proyecto Jardín. The outdoor meeting, located at Proyecto Jardin on Bridge Street, consisted of a healthy cooking demonstration, composting instruction and a seedling giveaway.

Boyle Heights Beat co-publishers Michelle Levander and Pedro Rojas opened the meeting, welcoming residents and introducing Irene Peña, Executive Director of Proyecto Jardín.

Youth reporter Samantha Olmos began the meeting by introducing herself and talking about her recently published story about the trend in urban community gardens, such as Proyecto Jardín.

Samantha Olmos speaks about her gardening story. Photo by Eddie Ruvalcaba.

 Sitting right behind White Memorial Hospital, the community garden promotes a healthy lifestyle and helps combat health problems like obesity and diabetes. The introduction segued to an opportunity for community members to discuss issues concerning them, providing reporters story ideas which the community truly cares about.  Among the issues discussed at the meeting, was that of Boyle Heights being a food desert.

Kenneth Sánchez, a senior at Bravo Medical Magnet, complained of the lack of healthy food options and supermarkets. “You have all these fast food chains coming in and they seem to be the only viable option for our people,”  he said.

Other residents brought up issues such as affordability and displacement, the lack of bike lanes, and the problem of trash and dumping on sidewalks. 

Liliana Arellanes gives healthy cooking tips using organic produce. Photo by Eddie Ruvalcaba.

Community members were then divided into groups in order to participate in different demonstrations.  Liliana Arellanes, a vegan chef who tends a garden at Proyecto Jardín,  gave a cooking lesson on how you can use things you grow to cook healthy meals.  Arellanes also catered the event preparing such delicacies such as gorditas de frijol con chile habanero, café de olla and aguas frescas.

“I learned how to use certain things I already have at home to be able to prepare my meals,” said community member Ana de la Torre after the cooking demonstration.

Peña gave a community demonstration on composting, while other members of Proyecto Jardin helped transplant seedlings to give away to residents.  Amadeo Delgado, a local beekeeper, was also on hand to discuss what he does with community members, as well as sell some his honey.  Throughout the event, youth reporters interacted with community members, took photographs and interviewed participants.

Succulents, t-shirts, and a ceramic tea set were raffled off, and all residents left with seedlings and the opportunity to grow their own plants at home.  

Photo above: A variety of garden related activities were part of Boyle Heights Beat most recent community meeting, hosted and co-sponsored by Proyecto Jardín. Photo by contributor Eddie Ruvalcaba.

Boyle Heights Beat

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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