Peace Garden in South LA Doubles in Size & Impact!

Volunteers and old grabbed hoes and shovels recently to expand both the size and the reach of the Friends Peace Garden in South Los Angeles, a project of the American Friends Service Committee. The expansion was a part of the March 31 “Good Food Day of Service” city wide event, hosted by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to  promote healthy eating and equal access to healthy food.

Since 2010, AFSC has been working with at-risk high school students on their own award-winning peace garden at the All Peoples Community Center. Last month, the volunteers prepared the garden and installed seven 6’ by 3’foot raised beds that soon will hold vegetables, flowers and even trees. Eleven families have agreed to plant and maintain the garden. “This was a great opportunity to truly open the garden up to the entire community and double its size,” says Crystal Gonzalez, AFSC’s peace education coordinator. One volunteer, Graciela Garcia spoke for many as she broke up dirt clods with her son Henry, 5. “I’m hoping my kids will learn to appreciate and enjoy healthy food through working in the garden.”

Community gardens are a way for neighborhoods to address the lack of access to fresh produce. They also foster a sense of empowerment and shared purpose against  neighborhood gang violence.  “I think this project is important because it will teach kids to love the land, to appreciate the process of planting and growing your own food. I hope more kids grow up to eat food that they grow,” said Julia Huerta, whose last name means “garden” in Spanish.

For Carolina Bobadilla, mother of two, a community garden is an important step towards health. “This garden is really so that kids will grow up to be healthier; there is so much obesity and malnutrition in the community. This garden will produce food that is all-natural, with no pesticides,” she said. After a quick lunch break, the group installed the raised beds and filled them with soil and compost. “This garden will be great. The community will get to walk by it each day, watch the plants grow and just take pride in it and their neighborhood,” said Graciela Garcia.

Though the eleven families still have hard work ahead, Maria Alvarez already is thinking about the next step, saying, “I hope this project inspires people to plant their own gardens at home.”

Written 6th April 2012

“If I Had a Trillion Dollars” Video Production

…and counting has been spent by the United States on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The students of AFSC Los Angeles’ Help Increase the Peace (HIP) class at the Academic Leadership Community at Miguel Contreras have been hard at work to produce a film for AFSC’s If I Had a Trillion Dollars video contest which addresses alternative ways
Students were surprised to learn that that 60% of the the 2012 Federal Discretionary Budget will be spent on the military. The students were introduced furthermore to the emotional, political, and social costs of war through watching the film The Ground Truth. The film explores the recruitment, training, battle and re-integration experiences of young men and women of service in the war in Iraq.

Students Hanna and Maricruz hard at work on signs to be featured in the video.

The students channeled their knowledge of the costs of war into the production of a video for AFSC’s “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” video contest. The aim of the video is to raise awareness of what government prioritizes to spend in the Federal Discretionary Budget.

Christian on set of the video’s opening scene.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE! CLICK TO YOUTUBE. (Filmed by Azusa Pacific University College Intern Briana Tumangkeng with students from the Academic Leadership Community.) Learn more about AFSC’s annual If I Had a Trillion Dollars video contest here.

Written: 23rd March 2012

From Garden to Lunch Table

The idea was born a few weeks ago.  A group of 10 Lincoln High School peace garden students enjoyed their first lettuce harvest.  They tried two salad recipes: a simple “Lemon Dressing Salad” and a “Candied Walnut and Apple Salad”. The apple walnut salad was a hit. It was so convincing that 12th grade student Wendy said “Man, this is good. I think the whole school would love this!” It was quickly decided:  we would share the lettuce from our school garden with the general student population at lunch time.

This morning students made it happen. They harvested lettuce, diced apples, and made candied walnuts by lightly toasting the walnuts and adding maple syrup.  Marlene was the salad dressing chef.  She didn’t even bother to use measurements. She carefully mixed the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and orange juice (fresh from the school’s orange tree) to make a custom and perfectly balanced dressing.

Students rushed to get ready before the lunch bell rang. They prepared the lunch table with signs exhibiting “Salad Ingredients” the “Eat Well Plate” and announcements “La Verdura Cura” (vegetables cure) “Veggies Need Love Too” and “Free Salad!” They tossed together the ingredients and within moments it was lunchtime and students were running out of their classrooms. Lincoln students quickly and excitedly lined up to get their free salad.  Brando, Wendy, Fannie, Miztica, Marlene and Maria, the morning’s core volunteers, were busy serving plates and sharing information about our school garden. “They’re saying it’s really good!” Miztica whispered. The salad was an especially good addition to the school lunch which was mostly chicken drumsticks a la carte.  A student in line said, “You guys grew this? This is from our school? Now that’s cool.”  A total of 50 students enjoyed the locally grown salad.

Good job everyone! And a special thank you to service learning volunteers Maria and Joel from Cal State Fullerton’s “Barrios and Health Class”.

Written: 10th February 2012

Update: Peace Garden at All Peoples

The Peace Garden at All Peoples in South Central.

Today was a sunny and beautiful day at All Peoples in South Central! AFSC staff Anthony Marsh, Los Angeles Program Director and Eisha Mason, AFSC Pacific Southwest Regional Director, joined the class taught weekly by Crystal Gonzalez, AFSC-LA’s Peace Education Coordinator. Today’s class was spent on discussing a research project in the works by the students to survey the surrounding community’s access to healthy and nutritious food. Students expressed their thoughts on the project with one another and joined together in the end for an insightful discussion on the purpose and challenges of the research project.  Following the discussion in class it was time to work in the Peace Garden!

Shirley and Allison hard at work fertilizing the garden.

All Peoples is a continuation school located in South Central, Los Angeles. A majority of their students come from areas outside of the surrounding neighborhood, like Compton and Inglewood, and commute for hours everyday on public transportation to reach the school. Jamal from Compton stated that he wakes up at 4 a.m. every morning in order to make the commute to school on the bus which can take up to 2 hours one-way.

Joanna, Sharnica, and Shirley at All Peoples Christian Center in South Central.

Students have really taken ownership of the Peace Garden at All Peoples. Today students picked fresh vegetables, rosemary, and green onions all ready to eat from the garden. “Before the Peace Garden I did not know anything about about healthy eating,” stated Sharnica, a student at All Peoples. Another student Joanna remarked, “The experience of working in the Peace Garden is incredible. Other people need to come and join!”
Check out more pictures from today on Flickr.
To learn more about the Friends Peace Garden, visit our Peace Gardens page or download the fact sheet.
Written: 2nd February 2012

Meet the Intern

Hello! My name is Briana Tumangkeng and I am the new student intern at AFSC Los Angeles. Currently I am a junior at Azusa Pacific University studying Global Studies. My hope is to one day work in non-profit management in the field of humanitarian aid. I was drawn to interning with AFSC because of their mission to promote peace and social justice. During my time here as an intern I will be updating this blog, assisting with the Peace Gardens at local high schools and working on a video project in conjunction with students at the Academic Leadership Community.

Look out for my updates on this blog for the latest news from AFSC-LA!

Written: 31st January 2012

Live, Learn and Cook!

Students from Central High School at Mar Vista made a special visit to its partner the Cafe Livre restaurant and culinary school in Culver City today.  There the students learned about the behind-the-scenes work involved in owning, operating and managing a restaurant.  The restaurant, which opened in November, is co-founded by French Algerian Chef Farid Zadi.  Born in Lyon, France, Chef Zadi who is also the dean of the culinary arts at Ecole de Cuisine in Los Angeles and writes for the Test Kitchen column for the LA Weekly instructed students in the making of French omelettes!  “Young people should learn how to cook for themselves rather going to fast food restaurants,” say Chef Zadi.  “Food brings people together.”

The students who are also growing a variety of herbs and vegetables as a part of the partnership shared their excitement.  “I can’t believe I made my own dish!  Incredible,” said Tati Quintanilla.  In addition to cooking, the students assumed the responsibility for cleaning and dishwashing too; and learned about the wide variety of positions in a restaurant from the line cook to house manager.  “Young people should learn more about the restaurant industry.  There’s a lot to do in managing a restaurant,” says Steve Kim, Cafe Livre Front House manager.

Written: 19th January 2012

Blogging Workshop

Today we worked in the computer lab to learn a little about blogging and use the blog to share what we’ve done this year.  Our intern, Andie Tucker, did a wonderful job leading a discussion on the use and importance of blogging in today’s digital world.   Students blogged about their experiences in the garden and discussed what the garden means to them.

We’ll be updating with the students’ posts very soon- stay tuned!

Written: 8th December 2011

Student Protest

        On Tuesday the HIP class from Miguel Contreras High School and AFSC staff went to the corner of Wilshire and Vermont to protest social justice issues affecting the local community. We passed out information and talked with community members about police brutality, immigration and deportation, and military spending.
         The students picked the issues they wanted to address and made posters beforehand. The protest gave them an opportunity to talk to a number of people and make their voices heard. We were really proud of the students and their commitment to their causes, and the students were excited about the impact they were able to make and empowered by sharing their convictions. It was a great success and a lot of fun! Check out more pictures of the event HERE.
Written: 7th December 2011