When the youth of the Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention (CX3) project first assessed the Mission Park neighborhood of Escondido, they realized that access to healthy food was an issue. To make matters worse, one of the two large grocery stores in the area closed down, further limiting the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables. The youth decided to take action and bring fresh produce into the Mission Park area by revitalizing a school garden.
The youth brought their idea to life in partnership with recognized Live Well San Diego partner, Escondido Education COMPACT, and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, through its North Inland Region and Healthy Works Initiative under Live Well San Diego. The team partnered with Mission Middle School to restore their existing school garden in hopes that the school may eventually make it a community garden open to all Mission Park residents.
The entire garden had to be reconstructed in the month before school started. With the help of a garden coordinator and master gardener, CX3 youth recruited community volunteers to help them. The youth and other volunteers rolled up their sleeves and spent multiple days per week clearing away dried brush, breaking down unusable garden beds, and rooting up and replacing the old irrigation system. Once this was completed, the youth and volunteers shoveled in new soil to build new beds, laid out a drip irrigation system, and installed a new pathway through the garden, all before arriving at the grand task of planting seeds.
Through all of their hard work, CX3 youth and community volunteers created a beautiful space that is budding with potential—along with their newly-planted fruits and vegetables.
The CX3 youth knew they had a great idea in wanting to create a garden, but they had no idea where to begin, or how to finish all the work needed before the school year started. They overcame this challenge through community collaboration. With the help of a local master gardener and a garden coordinator hired by COMPACT, they were able to figure out the logistics and guide their efforts into a fruitful outcome. In addition, businesses and organizations donated time, resources, and equipment to help make each work party successful. Most importantly, Mission Park residents responded to the youth’s call for help and showed up at the garden ready to lend a helping hand and complete whatever tasks were necessary.
CX3 youth hope to shape more of these positive experiences by providing opportunities for students, school staff, and community members to participate in the sustainability and success of the garden.
“I come back because I like working outside and seeing how it grows from day to day,” said former Mission Middle School student, Jesse Guerrero.
The CX3 youth and supporting organizations will continue recruiting community members to assist them in sustaining the garden. CX3 also plans to promote community events to allow Mission Park residents to come into the garden to take produce home, showcase the garden, and encourage families within the community to pursue their own gardening activities. As a long-term goal, CX3 aims to investigate the logistics of establishing a farm stand or farmers’ market in Mission Park.
CX3 volunteer opportunities are made possible by the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency's Healthy Works initiative. Funding for CX3 is provided by the California Department of Public Health’s Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch (NEOPB). NEOPB is a public health effort working with hundreds of partners and organizations to empower low-income Californians to live healthier lives through good nutrition and physical activity. Funding is from USDA SNAP-Ed, known in California as CalFresh. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
For CalFresh information, call 2-1-1.
For important nutrition information, visit www.CaChampionsForChange.net.
By Melissa Montoya, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, North Inland Region