While many businesses in Los Angeles County remain closed due to COVID-19, farmers markets across the county continue to operate under safety guidelines set by government officials.
This has given three liberal studies students, Anthony Griego, Nadine Kaissi and Alejandra Sotelo, along with their faculty mentor, Assistant Professor Teresa Lloro, an opportunity to continue conducting research and volunteering at the Pomona Valley Farmers Market to provide fresh produce to residents of Pomona and surrounding communities.
“At a time when the most vulnerable are experiencing food insecurity in record numbers, farmers markets have become critical access points for fresh and healthy food. The Pomona Community Farmer Alliance, which operates at the Pomona Valley Farmers Market, remains committed to providing these services to our community,” said Lloro.
Griego, Kaissi and Sotelo have volunteered at the Pomona Valley Farmers Market since fall 2019. In this time, they have provided assistance in maintaining the market by selling produce on behalf of Sage Mountain Farms and by offering free seeds and workshops at the Seed Lending Library.
Each of them are in the process of completing their senior project on food justice.
“My senior project is looking at how food justice and activism influences sustainable farming practices and local farmers markets attendance,” said Griego. “I was introduced to the topic of food justice and activism in my class with Professor Lloro. The lessons we learned in class fascinated me as someone who grew up economically disadvantaged. It also motivated me to give back by helping those with limited access to healthy foods, as I experienced growing up.”
Kaissi and Sotelo are evaluating the impact of farmers markets on the local community for their senior projects.
“I became interested in food justice upon taking a class with Professor Lloro,” said Kaissi. “It feels amazing to make a tangible contribution to the local community.”
Griego, Kaissi and Sotelo are also making a California Humanities-funded documentary on food justice activism in the Pomona Valley with support from Assistant Professors Jeff Roy and Teresa Lloro. Although COVID-19 has restricted them from conducting interviews on camera, they decided to switch to online surveys to gather feedback from the community.
In her study, Kaissi found that community members still rely on farmers markets to provide fresh produce, despite challenges presented by COVID-19.
Those who completed her survey said they use farmers markets for their weekly groceries needs, citing the quality, price and overall freshness as the reason for coming out.
“I am proud to see our students continuing to address food insecurity despite the restrictions that are in place,” said CEIS Dean Jeff Passe. “This effort underscores the value of a polytechnic, social justice-oriented education.”
The Pomona Valley Farmers Market is currently open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. They offer a pre-order program, which includes a basket of vegetables, fruits or a mixture of both for $15. Delivery is free for seniors and $5 for all others. They also have a matching dollars program up to $10 for EBT cardholders. For more information, please visit their website at www.pomonacfa.org.