July 27, 2017 - For immediate release.
San Diego’s first free food park launches Saturday in City Heights
A volunteer group and the El Cajon Business Improvement District is building a public park covered in fruit trees and veggies
The produce is free for anyone and everyone to pick and eat
The first plants are going in this Saturday at a community planting party
San Diego, July 25, 2017 – This Saturday, San Diego’s fast-growing free food movement is coming to City Heights with its biggest installation yet. The El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement District and Eat San Diego are partnering to build an entire free food park. It will be the first of its kind in San Diego.
It started with a guy planting veggies at bus stops around San Diego—without asking for permission. Then it spread. Mixte Communications in Ocean Beach planted a free food garden in arm’s reach of the sidewalk, with a sign welcoming the public to pick and enjoy. Then community organizations and small businesses like the Newbreak Church, the Point Loma Association and Folk Arts Records did the same.
“This park is about community. Free food gardens offer us a chance to interact with our community in a totally different way. When you walk down the street and pick a fresh fruit or veggie from a shared community garden, that’s something special, something that causes a shift in how you think about your neighborhood. It stops being a place you live and starts to feel more like home.
We want this garden to remind everyone that we’re all a part of this community, we can all find ways to contribute and make it a better place. Every small act of kindness makes a difference.”
- Kelly Colt, cofounder of Eat San Diego and City Heights Resident
The project is a partnership of the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement District, which has provided funding, supplies and land use, and Eat San Diego, the volunteer group born from fans of the first bus stop gardens, providing the labor, design and community organizing efforts.
But the park wouldn’t have been possible without a neighborhood-wide effort.
- City Farmer’s Nursery donated topsoil and fertilizer and owner Bill Tall will offer organic gardening classes at the location.
- Soda Bar, a local music venue blocks away, will offer water and assist with garden maintenance.
- Locally-owned business topratedoctor.com provided funding for tools and plants.
- San Diego Master Gardner’s Association and San Diego Community Garden Network offered expertise, design guidance and plants
“Cultivating a space to bring life from our soil brings positive energy and growth to our communities. Having access to locally grown vegetables and fruits is essential to many poverty-stricken communities that don't have access to healthy, sustainable food options.
This simple solution is a step in the right direction where we can begin to cultivate positive social change across San Diego County. I look forward to bringing a potential pop-up garden site to the city of Chula Vista.”
– Mark Bartlett, Chula Vista City Council Candidate and Community Activist
What does it look like?
The park features a walking path through peach, pink lemon and loquat trees and garden beds raised to arm’s reach for accessibility to all. In addition to the food for humans, the park will be decorated with native plant species that feed local pollinators and endangered butterflies.
What kind of food?
Forty-four percent of City Heights residents are first generation immigrants to the U.S. In less than seven square miles, more than 30 languages are spoken, making City Heights one of the most diverse communities in the U.S. The free food park will be no different, growing vegetables found in the cuisines of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Ethiopian, Guatemalan and other cultures represented in the community. As well, the park will grow traditional American crops and native edibles that are less commercially viable than the varieties found in most chain stores.
Why are you planting free food everywhere?
“Because we can have our beautiful neighborhood and eat it, too. There’s a goldmine hiding in every patch of dirt behind a bus stop and along every sidewalk. When we add berries to our bushes and fruit to our trees, life in San Diego gets even better.
It’s another small reminder that if we get creative and refuse to settle for less, we’ll build a place to live where there’s enough for everyone to be happy and safe.”
– Devon Lantry, co-founder of Eat San Diego.
Eat San Diego
Eat San Diego is bringing people together to plant free food in public space. Our movement runs entirely on volunteer power and shared resources. Have a front yard? A storefront? A sidewalk by your house that you know could be better? Today, you can fill a patch of dirt with some strawberries. Tomorrow, you’ll have started a movement in your neighborhood that changes everything. Let’s plant free food everywhere! Eat San Diego is a Mixte-incubated project. Get involved at eatsandiego.org.