The following story was written as part of the Ramona Gardens Storytelling Project, organized by Boyle Heights Beat and Legacy LA.
By Melissa Sosa
Ever since I can remember, I have always seen my mom take out a needle and inject herself with insulin to treat her Type 2 diabetes. She pokes her finger with a glucose meter twice a day to measure her blood sugar, and she must stay away from sweets and any foods with sugar.
It’s hard to see your parent go through that knowing that you can’t help them. I know I’m not the only person in the world going through that, even in my community.
My name is Melissa Sosa. I am 17 years old and I am a junior at Abraham Lincoln High School. I live in a blue, three-bedroom house with 12 other people a block away from the Ramona Gardens housing development. Living with 12 other people can be crazy, but they will always be there for you at the end of the day.
One of the main issues that concerns me about our neighborhood is that we live in a food desert, which means we don’t have access to fresh food. There are no supermarkets near Ramona Gardens and you need to drive a few miles to get fresh food and healthy food alternatives, and many residents don’t have access to a car to drive up to them.
Even though we have access to some public transportation, the closest bus stop to Ramona Gardens is about three blocks away, and to get there you have to climb a steep hill that can be very tiring and overwhelming. Nico’s is the only store in Ramona Gardens, and some of the food there is expensive and of questionable quality. A gallon of milk there costs $4. Some of the veggies go bad the next day, and the meat is very expensive.
Another source of food is a produce truck. Don Trino’s truck has fresh food, but it’s not enough for the whole community to get access to healthy and affordable food. And Don Trino is only there until his food runs out.
Being in a food desert can lead to diabetes, hypertension and other health problems that could interfere with your schoolwork and your life. And not being able to have fresh healthy food leads to high rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension. A recent survey found that over three quarters of Ramona Gardens residents are overweight, and nearly half of them are obese. The survey connected these numbers to the lack of access to fresh food.
Ramona Gardens should have more fresh and affordable food to insure the health of the youth and family around the community. Otherwise it could create a health problem for the next generation and the generation after that.
We also need a shuttle line coming into this community of 5,000 residents so that people won’t have to walk blocks to get public transportation and don’t have to walk up hills to access fresh food and reach places outside of the community.
Ramona Gardens residents should demand these things because no one else will stand up and fight for what we want in our community.