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New South Side community garden nourishing neighborhood with 'food desert'

Garden will provide fresh, healthy food that's not always accessible

SAN ANTONIO – Thousands of people in San Antonio live more than two miles from grocery stores with fresh produce.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture term for that is a food desert, and to combat the problem, organizations have begun to build community gardens all over the city to give families a shot at living healthier lives.

Palo Alto College on the South Side opened a new community garden Monday.

"This one's pretty and that one's really pretty," said Angela Burgos, a horticulture student at Palo Alto College, pointing at vegetables she planted herself.

She takes pride in her work to help build the new community garden.

"I think it's really important for the children, so they can get an idea of what it's like to grow things and at that point, they can start tasting what they grew, and they can start liking vegetables," Burgos said.

Fresh foods are not very accessible to people living in and around the Palo Alto College area. It's officially called a food desert because, within two miles, there are no grocery stores big enough to sell 60,000 items or more, including a variety of fresh food.

"Unfortunately, a lot of unhealthy food is very cheap, and it's marketed quite a bit. When that's what's accessible, that's what you eat. Unfortunately, the long-term effects of eating cheap is heart disease, diabetes, even obesity is a nutrition issue," said Eric Cooper, CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank.

That's why the new garden, which is funded by grants and the SA Food Bank, is a big deal. It can make the entire community healthier.

"The community members get to come in, check out a garden bed, just as you would a library book. We share seeds with you. We teach you how to plant the plants, even how to harvest," said Rose Flores, landscaping and horticulture instructor at Palo Alto College.

Community members can head to the Share Center on the Palo Alto campus to learn how to cook the food they grow.

"The greatest thing about a garden is it has (a) bounty and you get to share," Cooper said.

"It's really easy to keep up after you get the hang of it and maintain it, and it's nice to have a community itself," Burgos said. "Community is when everyone's involved in something."

It's a neighborhoodwide effort to hydrate and eliminate their food desert.

People who plant and grow the veggies can take them home or donate them to the Palo Alto College's food bank.

For more information, visit the college Share Center on campus.


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