Urban oasis bringing nutrition to Tenderloin


San Francisco's Tenderloin District is the only neighborhood in the city without a full-service grocery store to provide fresh food. So, the housing agency has come up with a creative idea in a place that may surprise you. You may have driven by the small garden a number of times in San Francisco and never noticed it even though it's right across the street from city hall.

"Last year in 2011, we harvested around 3,000 pounds of food and we distributed to around 300 plus people in the neighborhood," Lorenzo Listana told ABC7. Listana is the community outreach coordinator supervising the Tenderloin People's Garden. It was created by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation or TNDC, for short. It's one part of a bigger plan to work around the lack of a supermarket in the Tenderloin. "This one is one source where residents can get their fresh produce for free," he said.

"We have a partnership with the city, so this is a Department of Public Works land and we signed an agreement with them. We've taken responsibility for it, we staff it, we keep it clean," said Executive Director Don Falk explaining how it works.

The community garden is staffed by volunteers coordinated by Nella Manuel. "Every time I'm tilling the soil, it's really hard to till the soil at my age, but people are giving me the sign, lady, you are doing great job," she said. Most of the gardeners live in low-income housing created by TNDC. It has purchased and rehabilitated or built 30 buildings in 30 years and houses 3,000 people. They include formerly-homeless people like veterans, seniors, and immigrant families like Listana's.

"It's a day-to-day struggle to find vegetables, fruit," said Steven Woo, the TNDC's director of community organizing. He runs the garden expansion program. There is another open space slated for development hidden away behind a building in the heart of the Tenderloin. "In this spot, with a lot of sun, I think we can grow a lot of lettuce here," Woo said. TNDC needs $50,000 for the next phase. That would dramatically improve nutrition because right now, there are only corner liquor stores with small amounts of fresh food to serve thousands of the poorest people in the city. "The Tenderloin has some of the highest health concerns in the city and some of the highest rates of obesity and heart disease," Woo said. "We think that food is one way to address some of those health concerns."

TNDC needs donations so it can plant the seeds for a healthier community. Their annual fundraiser is Wednesday night and tickets are still available. ABC7 News anchor Cheryl Jennings will be emceeing the event and hopes you can join her.

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