Written by Julianne Foster
Groups in San Diego County have continued to prove their dedication to local residents by providing resources to residents who have difficulty getting them. CityServe is one such example as they are able to utilize churches to provide families with thousands of boxes of food through the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
In Oceanside, North River Farms has been approved in 2019 to provide shelter, locally grown produce, and funding that will generate $5.9 million annually in permanent economic impact for the city. North River Farms, partnered with the Ecology Center will be the first “agrihood” in San Diego, which includes a residential community with a 68-acre working farm. The residential community provides affordable housing for low-income families and 700 permanent jobs. Beyond producing enough food to equal more than three times the population of North River Farms, the agrihood will provide millions in funding to local schools, parks, public services, and traffic improvements.
Residents of Villa Storia, the community of affordable housing at North River Farms, received produce to help feed their families on May 22. The Ecology Center that runs the farms was able to generate produce to feed 100 local families. North River Farms boxed fresh produce and face masks and gave them out to families and seniors in Villa Storia as well as the Chicano Federation-affiliated daycare providers serving low-income families in Oceanside.
One resident, Elizabeth Mora, expressed her gratitude towards Villa Storia in helping her family when they were having difficulty paying for their dramatic rent increase at their previous apartment. “We have a home where we live, and many people don’t have that. We can stop worrying,” said Mora.
Another resident was delighted to have access to fresh produce during the pandemic rather than food from “somewhere that it sits somewhere else and comes here.” She said “if it’s nice, local produce it’s going to stay [fresh] in my refrigerator much longer.”
This has had a positive impact on the communities of Oceanside who are experiencing “food deserts,” which are areas where people are struggling to find easy access to fresh and healthy food. These residents are now able to find it through the provisions of North River Farms. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has closed much of the economy and caused many people to lose their jobs, there have been income reductions and a disruption in the nation’s food supply. Villa Storia and the work by the Ecology Center provide easy access food and housing to struggling families.
“The pandemic has amplified our community’s concern for putting food on the table. We saw this distribution as a way to reach out to our neighbors and connect them with fresh, local produce.” said Lance Waite, Principal with Encinitas-based Integral Communities, the developer of NorthRiver Farms.
Oceanside voters can support the provision of benefits that come from this agrihood by voting ‘yes’ on North River Farms this November.