Feeding the People

   San Francisco’s Tenderloin district is the lowest income district in the city and many of the residents have little access to healthy food options, there is no super market so the general population buys their groceries from corner stores. In addition many Tenderloin residents cannot afford the cost of healthy food. The Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) wanted to address this food justice issue in 2010 by creating a small community garden to provide fresh produce to the people of the Tenderloin. The Tenderloin People’s Garden partnered with the city of San Francisco two years ago to transform a dilapidated lot, owned by the department of Public Works, and created this community garden. The garden, located on McAllister and Larkin, has bi-monthly harvests in which two hundred to three hundred pounds of produce are given away to the members who work in the garden. The Tenderloin Peoples Garden is volunteer lead and many of the participants live in homes provided to them by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation. With  two-hour workdays (Monday through Friday) the volunteers participate in and receive produce from the garden in exchange for their work. Through this exchange TNDC hopes to create, “a more equitable food system that prioritizes all people’s access to the basic human right of healthy food.”  The workdays consist of about ten to twenty volunteers, mostly seniors, where they transplant seedlings, harvest produce, till the beds, weed, or create compost. The People’s Garden even host Elementary and High School classes in the garden to teach them these skills. They are hoping to expand their program further by creating new gardens and new programs to outreach to more community members.

      The Tenderloin People’s Garden mission is to truly understand the wants and the needs of the Tenderloin community. Community organizer Ryan Thayer spoke about how organizations must understand the people of the Tenderloin before implementing a program to help the community. Many organizations attempt to do great things for the community, but they are unsuccessful because the people of the Tenderloin do not respond as enthusiastically as expected. The Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation is working to make effective change in the people’s lives of the Tenderloin. They have renovated thirty apartment buildings in the past thirty years to provide low-income homes for the people of the Tenderloin. In addition, because many of the homes in the Tenderloin do not have kitchens and are so debilitated that the only kitchen appliance permitted is a microwave; they are working to create a Microwave Cookbook in several languages in hopes that the people of the community can learn to cook healthy meals in their microwave. Through this cookbook community members can take home the vegetables from the garden and learn to prepare delicious meals with the resources they have. TNDC is also brainstorming the idea of creating a local communal kitchen space where those who wish to cook their own meals are provided with a space to do so. This communal kitchen would also hold educational nutrition programs.

    The Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation also gleans food from the local farmers’ markets and distributes that produce, for free, every Thursday morning to 476 Eddy Street. They hope to also create rooftop gardens to provide more fresh produce to the community, rooftops are an important and under-used resource for food production that could greatly benefit the Tenderloin community. The Tenderloin People’s Garden was the first step for TNDC in their goal for food justice. In the past year, the garden has donated produce to three hundred plus people, but the organization is not stopping there. They know that healthy options are limited in their neighborhood and they are slowly changing that notion. That small plot of land on McAllister and Larkin has brought healthy meals to many people, and the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation plans to build on this continued success. They are willing to get their hands dirty literally and figuratively to bring healthy food to the people of the Tenderloin, and they welcome all to join in the fight and leave with some veggies!

 People’s Garden Volunteer Schedule:

Monday:  10am – 12pm
Tuesday: 3pm – 5pm
Wednesday: 10am – 12pm
Thursday: 3pm – 5pm
Friday:  10am – 12pm
Closed Saturday and Sunday

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2 Comments to “Feeding the People”

  1. How about the elderly/disabled who could no longer volunteer in gardening, are they able to access on the harvests? Donate the excess harvests to soup kitchens/ senior centers/ CBOs’ for delicious meals. How about expanding the vacant garden to other small plots like potted plants, donated seeds, nursery vegetable plants, start a Green Revolution project……….

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