Ceremony to Celebrate Expansion of Occidental's Community Food Security Project
Los Angeles City Councilman Nick Pacheco will join Eagle Rock Elementary School students on Thursday, June 14 to celebrate the opening of Occidental College’s newly relocated Community Food Security Project. An open house will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the new site, located in Eagle Rock at 2106 Colorado Blvd. At 9 a.m., Pacheco will issue a proclamation commemorating the occasion.
With research showing that childhood obesity has doubled since the late 1970s, the Community Food Security Project tries to foster healthy eating habits by urging families to patronize regional growers at local farmers’ markets.
The project, run by Oxy’s Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI), also initiated a “farm-to-school” program in which local growers provide fresh fruit and vegetables to all 14 campuses in the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, as well as to 59th Street and Castelar elementary schools in Los Angeles. Additionally, the project encourages schools to plant their own gardens. Children at Eagle Rock Elementary, who have cultivated their own school garden, will paint a mural and plant an edible landscape during the June 14 celebration.
At 1,800-square-feet, the Community Food Security Project’s new headquarters is double the size of its previous home on the Occidental campus. A staff of 10 will work out of the Colorado Boulevard office, which will provide the project better community exposure, said Andrea Azuma, associate director of the Community Food Security Project. “We are a community-based effort, so we felt we needed an office in the community,” she said.
“We’re working right now to figure out strategies to more widely promote our mission, which is to foster a just and sustainable food system,” Azuma added. “By creating links between consumers and regional farmers, we can support a food system that is beneficial to both parties.”
The program goal is to provide fresh produce to low-income areas that otherwise might not have access to nutritious food that hasn’t been transported hundreds, or even thousands of miles to market. At the same time, it addresses the steady decline in the number of small and medium-sized farms, which are being squeezed out of business by high growing costs, low prices for their products, and poor access to markets.
In addition to its work locally, Occidental heads a national consortium of universities, school districts and non-profit groups to develop new farm-to-school programs in California, New Jersey and New York. Collaborating with the college are researchers from UC Davis, Rutgers, Cornell and Penn State, as well as officials from the California Department of Education, the Davis Joint Unified School District, the Community Food Security Coalition, and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers.
Funded by a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the farm-to-school effort is an innovative effort to give small and medium-sized farms access to part of the $16 billion food services market, and to address what the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called “an epidemic of childhood obesity.”
For more information on the Community Food Security Project’s relocation ceremonies, call (323) 341-5098.