CUSA Communications Coordinator, Ricardo Light, a Senior Undergraduate in the School of Social Ecology, is currently working on a project to develop a community garden program for a low-income high-density neighborhood in the heart of Santa Ana. The project is taking place in partnership with the Lighthouse Community Center (LCC) on Minnie Street, a predominantly Latino community.
Over the last 20 years the center’s focus has been on indigenous leader development and after school tutoring for over 150 youth ranging from elementary to high school ages. Other programs include sports clinics, art & music programs, life skills development, and a community garden. The community has seen a decrease in gang activity and crime since the center’s founding. Youth are provided with a space to play, something that resembles a park, and activities aimed at empowering their lives. It is the garden that will be the subject of this study.
Currently, members of the community can rent a small plot for nominal annual rate. The center, however, has struggled to lease a significant number of available plots and many residents who tend to plots are often unable dedicate much time to their respective garden plots. The garden suffers from regular acts of vandalism and food theft. The focus has been on adults gardeners, thus there is no program in place to engage the youth with the garden or benefit from the many opportunities a community garden presents, such as: job training, skills development, community bonding, decrease in isolation between community members, food security, access to healthy food choices, leadership development, an actively engaged community, and a long-term development of healthy behaviors and taste preferences for fruits and vegetables.
The LCC has identified several garden goals: create a thriving space for families to teach & learn from one another, develop indigenous leadership, fill a nutritional need, encourage engagement & involvement within the community, preserve community & cultural traditions, and overall maintenance & beautification of the garden. The purpose of this study is to develop and implement a garden program in line with community input to meet the LCC’s goals. Additionally, the program should be able to sustain itself and promote cooperation within the community.
The center has a diverse set of programs including after school tutoring, music classes, soccer clinics, and life skills development. Volunteers are always in short supply. For more information on how you can make a difference, contact Glora at firstname.lastname@example.org.