Sugar peas, butter lettuce, red and white Spanish onions, cauliflower and other veggies filled the 4-by-8-foot planter boxes, which Lozano gave them. With four children of their own, the Lopezes live in a small house with two other families, 14 people in all.Who will be the Raul Lozano of Lowndes County?
The modest harvest won’t eliminate Lopez’s trips to the food pantry, but it does save the family the cost of fresh vegetables it would otherwise have to buy at the market.
“This is saving us quite a bit of money,” said Arturo Lopez, a wall-framer who hasn’t worked since injuring his back last year. “Our children are eating better. They come back here and eat a leaf of lettuce like candy.”
“Why can’t somebody teach the people in my neighborhood to grow food?” Lozano asked himself. “Why can’t that person be me?”
He took the idea to Fred Ferrer, director of the Health Trust, which funds dozens of anti-poverty nutrition projects in Silicon Valley.
“Everybody does school or community gardens, but nobody was talking about growing food in backyards,” Ferrer said. “When Raul asked for $30,000, I told him to ask me for $50,000.”
He did, and Ferrer wrote the check on the spot.
Then Lozano asked Sacred Heart Community Service to be his nonprofit sponsor. The charity loved his idea so much, it took on La Mesa Verde and hired him as project manager.
“I was sold immediately on the idea,” said Poncho Guevara, Sacred Heart director. “But I knew this would be a whole new initiative, not just one guy with a truck and wheelbarrow.”
Food as grassroots (pun intended) politics:
“This fits in with what we want to do,” said Karen Schaeffer, the master gardener who designed the program’s first planting. “It’s an obviously great idea, the classic teaching somebody to do it themselves as opposed to just giving it to them.”In Silicon Valley the struggling population is Latinos. Here it may be different
When the master gardener program signed on, La Mesa Verde brought two different communities together — educated, English-speaking and mostly white volunteer gardeners at the front of the green movement with low-income, Spanish-speaking Latinos just struggling to survive.