Roybal Foundation Breaks Ground for Community Garden

Non-profit partners with the Latino Diabetes Association.

By Ileana Najarro, EGP Staff Writer

The indigenous dance group Familia Jaimes paraded into the lot beside the Lucille and Edward R. Roybal Foundation office in East Los Angeles last Friday to perform dances honoring the four elements. The dancers blessed the lot’s soil where the foundation, in partnership with the Latino Diabetes Association and other organizations, broke ground on the Lucille Beserra Mother Garden, a new community garden.

The Roybal Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to health and health services, had for years considered starting a sustainable garden, but it wasn’t until two months ago that planning officially got underway, according to the program’s director, Loushana Roybal Rose.

Aztec dancers bless the soil of the Lucille Beserra Mother Garden at a breaking-in garden last Friday. (EGP photo by Ileana Najarro)

Others collaborating in the effort include the Latino Diabetes Association; Velocity 3, a volunteer group that helped prepare the lot for gardening; the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps, which donated fresh produce for last Friday’s ground breaking ceremony, and Al Renner from the Los Angeles Community Garden Council who donated the designs for the garden.

The garden’s produce will be used in cooking demonstrations and other educational services provided by the Latino Diabetes Association, Randy Muñoz, the group’s vice chair told EGP.

“We want to grow specific types of fruits and vegetables, and teach people how to use them to make recipes right off the bat, and we hope to raise consciousness about what they’re eating,” Muñoz said.

“Our raza (people) know how to pick crops, we just don’t know how to eat them,” he said.
The garden will also serve as a model for future sites across the cities of Los Angeles and Commerce, which the Latino Diabetes Association is working on opening.

Commerce Mayor Lilia Leon said she “looks forward to a partnership” with those involved in the creation of the mother garden, and for testing of the soil at some of the city’s vacant lots to get started to determine if they are suitable for growing food.

Michelle Ramirez, a mother of a one year old and a volunteer for Velocity 3 in the Hollywood area, told EGP that the garden will benefit both young and old in the community.

“I think this will be for younger generations that will come, and I imagine this will not only happen in this community but in other communities as well,” Ramirez said in Spanish.

Ramirez added that the ceremony inspired her to consider establishing a community garden in her own neighborhood.

Planning for the garden was an added incentive for finishing the Roybal Community Center, where the diabetes awareness group will make use of the new kitchen to offer cooking demonstrations, hold yoga classes and their self-management program, said Yolie Acosta, executive director of the Latino Diabetes Association and a Commerce city commissioner. The center’s opening ceremony is scheduled for October 25.

Rose said the garden was named after her grandmother who greatly believed in the importance of health and supported her husband, former Councilman Edward R. Roybal’s, health initiatives.

“Health and justice runs in my family,” said Foundation board president, Lillian Roybal Rose. The garden is “absolutely consistent with the dream and the vision that my parents had for this foundation.”

“This is truly [my father’s] legacy because he believed in health, he believed in helping young people get an education, particularly in the field of health, and he believed in giving back to the community and saw this as a vibrant, active place,” Lillian said.

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August 16, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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