USC Health Sciences Campus employees peruse the produce at one of the stands of the inaugural Keck Farmers Market at Hazard Park on Oct. 4, 2016.

A new weekly farmers market in Hazard Park is bringing healthy food alternatives to students and employees at the USC Health Sciences Campus while also benefitting residents of the park’s surrounding communities.

Gourmet tamales, tacos and roasted corn, healthy variations on baked goods, fresh cut flowers and a good selection of fruits and vegetables were part of the offering on the Keck Farmers Market’s inaugural day, the first Tuesday in October. The market will gather every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. next to the park’s recreation center on Norfolk Street,  across the street from Keck Hospital.

On that first Tuesday, dozens of people stopped by during their lunch hour, many of them health professionals wearing their scrubs.

“It’s very convenient,” said Gloria Stone, an officer manager at Keck’s radiation department who recently bought a nearby home in Boyle Heights. “I love farmers markets. It’s fresh, reasonable, and it helps the community.”

The market is put together by the Keck Medicine of USC Wellness Committee. According to Char Ryan, Patient Experience and Employee Engagement Officer at Keck, the idea for the market came from the committee’s yearly community needs assessment.

“Some of the items that came up were [that the community wants] more healthy options for eating,” Ryan said. They are worried about obesity, diabetes, doing preventative things, so we really felt that partnering with the community, a farmers market would be a great solution.”

While the market is mostly convenient to HSC students and employees, it is also open to area residents. One goal is that the market could provide a healthy shopping alternative to residents in communities like Ramona Gardens, a nearby public housing development known as a food desert where residents have high levels of diabetes and other diseases related to poor diets.

In the meantime, Ryan said the organizers will be providing weekly bags of fresh fruits and vegetables to about 55 families from nearby communities whose children use Hazard Park’s recreation facilities.

Ryan also said that funds raised from the market will be used to purchase equipment and to support activities provided by the recreation center.

Elizabeth García, a vendor from the Lores Family Farm in Santa Paula, said she was pleased with the market’s launch. On that first Tuesday her offerings included mostly vegetables like kale, broccoli and various types or zucchini, plus peaches, pears and various berries.

“It was good,” García said. “For it being the first day, it brought a lot of people.”

Vendor Antonia Graffeo, from Teenie Cakes Baked Good, was also satisfied with the day’s results. She and partner Noah Walker produce baked goods with alternative recipes that include fresh herbs and vegetables, such as Zucchini Chocolate Cake or Rosemary Chocolate Chunk Cookie.

“We are new to LA and we want to be a part of this community as much as we can,” said Graffeo, who sold out of three of her cakes. “I want to share my recipes with as many people as I can reach.”

Named after a former mayor of Los Angeles, Hazard Park is a 25-acre green oasis that borders the HSC on its southeast edges. For decades it has attracted families from nearby communities in Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights.

Last year, USC contributed $1.1 million towards park improvements that included a new jogging path and outdoor fitness zone, improvements to the tennis and basketball courts and $100,000 towards youth sports programming.

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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