Berry News

Oxnard forums aim to make food security a reality for everyone

Source: VCSTAR.COM | July 13, 2012

Where do you get your food? What’s your idea of an ideal healthy food system?

These are just a couple of questions posed at forums recently held at three locations in Oxnard. The forums are part of the Oxnard Community Food Security Project initiated by the Community Roots Garden, a nonprofit organization and a ministry of the North Oxnard United Methodist Church.

The organization recently received a $24,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture/National Institute of Food and Agriculture in collaboration with the Community Food Security Coalition.

The project brings together people in Ventura County’s food system to plan for greater community food security. The focus is on farm workers who live or work in Oxnard.

The group conducted a community food assessment in Oxnard to better understand the needs, knowledge and resources of farmworker communities.

The assessment will help participants develop plans for future projects that use local resources to address food insecurity in both farmworker neighborhoods and the community as a whole.

“These forums were basically a culmination of a food assessment that we’ve been doing in the Oxnard area over the last four months,” said Katerina Friesen, Community Roots Garden coordinator and co-project director.

“Our food assessment is looking at the food system through the lens of farm workers. What we’re doing is looking at the people who pick our fruits and vegetables, and seeing that research has shown that the folks who work so hard to harvest the fruits and vegetables oftentimes cannot afford or access that healthy produce that is grown in abundance here themselves.”

One of the tools the group used during the forums was community mapping. There were big maps of Oxnard and the specific neighborhoods to use as a visual tool for people to look at their neighborhoods and map out where they got their food. They then shared their thoughts about the kinds of food they were getting and what they’d like to see in their neighborhood.

Representatives were brought together from Ventura County Public Health; Reiter Affiliated Cos., a berry grower; Abundant Table, a small organic farm; youths from the area through Oxnard City Corps; and student researchers and interns from CSU Channel Islands. They also included representatives from FOOD Share and the Mixteco indigenous Community Organizing Project.

Friesen said there’s been discussion over the past few months about creating a more sustainable food system.

“Our soil is really rich and a lot of people know how to grow their own food, but also looking at this as part of a bigger food system and how we can all come together to plan for projects to address some of these needs,” she said.

Vanessa Barragan, the Sembrando Salud Program coordinator for Reiter in Oxnard, said she believed the project is important and relevant in the Oxnard community.

“This project not only considers the question of who is food insecure, but also why, when and how often, which is especially important considering the large diversity among Oxnard residents,” Barragan said.

Although the data from each of the forums is still being processed, Friesen said the information is being translated into project recommendations. Ideas include a community kitchen and a food hub.

One project that doesn’t have funding and needs a sponsor is a planned public forum Oct. 24 where they hope to present the food assessment results and share stories and ideas from the community.