Irene Pena speaks before USC class and garden volunteers at Proyeto Jardin. Photo by Antonio Mejías-Rentas

A plan for a bicycle-drawn mobile farm stand that will take surplus produce from the Proyecto Jardín community garden to residents of the Ramona Gardens public housing development is being developed with the help of a small group of USC Spanish language students.

The students, enrolled in a course titled “Food, Health and the Environment in Latino Los Angeles, Mexico and Beyond,” provided technical assistance and consultation to Proyecto Jardín this semester.  At their last class meeting this Monday –held at the community garden on Bridge Street– the 17 students presented a business plan, marketing ideas and design sketches for the bicycle expected to deliver fresh produce to Ramona Gardens in the Spring.

Proyecto Jardín director Irene Peña said the concept for the mobile farm stand, funded by a grant from the USC Good Neighbor Campaign, was developed as part of the garden’s three-year old Youth HEAL program. Since its inception, the program that involves area youth in community gardening has sought for a practical way of distributing surplus produce.

A plot tended by a volunteer at Proyecto Jardin.

“[We looked for] something that is sustainable and can reach folks that are not necessarily across the street from us,” said Peña, who hopes the mobile farm stand will increase access to fresh food in Ramona Gardens, an isolated neighborhood known as a food desert that is about two miles north of the Proyecto Jardín garden.

“Our goal [at Proyecto Jardín] is to have a garden in every community, but that is going to take some time,” said Peña.

The custom human-powered vehicle to be used for Proyecto Jardín’s Youth HEAL Mobile Farm Stand is being built by Re:Ciclos, an incubated project at the nonprofit Bicycle Kitchen that uses recycled parts to build bicycles for community groups.

As part of the USC class, students got to work with some of the 40 volunteer gardeners with plots in Proyecto Jardín.

“They got to learn about the garden, they got to learn about the people, and they got to speak Spanish,” said professor Sarah Portnoy, who teaches the “Food, Health and the Environment” class.

According to the business plan developed by the students, the project will employ two cyclists to deliver the produce to Ramona Gardens. A safe route for the delivery is currently being developed.

Portnoy said she hopes that some of her students will remain involved with the project as volunteers. A new class next semester, she anticipated, will further look at the logistics of providing a new food source for Ramona Gardens.

Photo above: Irene Pena speaks to USC Class and volunteers at Proyecto Jardín session on Monday. Photos by Antonio Mejías-Rentas.

Antonio Mejías-Rentas

Antonio Mejías-Rentas is a Senior Editor at Boyle Heights Beat, where he mentors teenage journalists, manages the organization’s website and covers local issues. A veteran bilingual journalist, he's...

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