As seniors see food insecurity in West Long Beach, urban gardening could fill the gap, researchers say • Long Beach Post News

After speaking with residents of Westside, five social work students discovered that older people were struggling to access fresh produce in their area due to the lack of large supermarket chains, said Ariday Avellaneda, one of the students of the research team.

Many West Long Beach residents have said repeatedly that they usually have to go to Albertson’s in the Wrigley neighborhood. The elderly usually walk or take public transport to get around. Barriers like distance make it particularly difficult for seniors to access fresh food, the students say.

“The common trend that emerged was food insecurity, especially for the elderly, as we noticed that the roads were a bit damaged, transport is not as reliable and [West Long Beach has] an older community there,” Avellaneda said. “That’s when we noticed there was a big gap in access to healthy food.”

West, Central, and North Long Beach, which are areas with low-income communities and limited sources of fresh food, are considered food deserts. Parts of West Long Beach also fall under their Food Desert Census Tract, which it defines as a low-income area where a substantial number or substantial portion of residents do not have ready access to a supermarket or large grocery store, according to the federal government. Data. A past 2019 CSULB report also shows that food deserts largely affect communities of color.

Across the city, Long Beach officials have implemented initiatives to increase access to healthy foods, such as its Long Beach Healthy Market Partnership Program.

In the meantime, these students say they are trying to find solutions to food insecurity in West Long Beach. This way, older people “can access healthy food and grow it on their own,” Avellaneda said.

In partnership with Casa Chaskis, a Peruvian restaurant on Santa Fe Avenue, and Jeff Rowe, a master gardener and business consultant in West Long Beach, CSULB graduate students will lead a project where they will teach people 55 and older to garden at the garden kitchen behind Casa Chaskis on Saturdays this month.

Programming will include a program on identifying healthy food sources, and Rowe will lead gardening activities. The group’s intention is also to have other social work students continue programming after the student’s master’s program is completed due to the fact that community gardens available in West Long Beach, such as the Mary Molina Community Garden and the Hudson Park Community Garden require land fees, which could be another hurdle, the students said.

“We want to bring a sense of togetherness while having access to healthy, fresh food because we know it could be very expensive,” Avellaneda said.

The dates for the lineup will be March 12, 19, and 26 from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Casa Chaskis at 2380 Santa Fe Ave.

Melissa Velasquez, another student leading the project, said that if there is a surplus of applicants to the program, Rowe will accept additional participants once student programming is complete.

“We don’t want to leave anyone behind,” Velasquez said. Future gardening on the site could also serve the restaurant owner as he was looking for regular volunteers to help harvest and maintain his garden.

This three-day project will also allow these graduate students to release a report on the effectiveness of urban gardening for food-insecure seniors after surveying workshop participants.

Existing research has shown students that collaborative groups may also provide mental health benefits for older adults, who often suffer from depression and isolation.

The students plan to publish their findings in April.

For more information, contact Ariday Avellaneda at 562-264-5832 or [email protected]

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