As most of us are busy deciding which stuffing or cranberry sauce to make this Thanksgiving, there's many who won't have the luxury of picking six fixings to accompany their turkey. Many don't have access to fresh food and live in "food deserts" where the most convenient and inexpensive thing to eat is fast food. There are several groups who are trying to make healthier food more accessible. President Obama has been working on strengthening local and regional food systems and through his efforts in conjunction with the USDA, a recent grant of $22,000 was given to the urban farm, The Growing Experience, to serve as a local Food Hub in North Long Beach.
The Growing Experience was established in 1996 by the Housing Authority of Los Angeles County in the Carmelitos Housing Development. This 7 acre farm serves approximately 100 households in Carmelitos, as well as many members of the greater community who also don't have access to fresh, local ingredients. Produce from the Growing Experience is sold at a local weekly farmer's market and also through a CSA farm box program where people can purchase and pick-up regular produce shipments on site.
Once a year, name chefs from the area get together and cook a big fundraising meal right in the middle of the garden. You bring your own wine and they bring on a multi-course menu that starts with passed hors d'oeuvres ranging from smoked oyster mushrooms to lamb tartare and baja scallop ceviche. OK, not everything was foraged on site, but The Growing Experience and the chefs work with local farmers to secure produce. They also offer programs to teach the residents about agriculture and nutrition, and they have on site work opportunities to help set them up for the future.
Dinner was a multi-course feast of fresh local food that included a wide range of proteins from pig crepinette to pork liver pate, grilled shark and lamb barbacoa.
The money given to The Growing Experience from meals like this and the recent grant, will help the farm grow and service a larger area. For more information on the program, visit The Growing Experience website.