TAMPA, Fla. — There are several food deserts right here in the Tampa Bay Area and the people who live in them do not have easy access to fresh and healthy produce.
That is why one local community garden is trying to solve this issue by growing the food right where it is needed.
Many residents who live in the University Area community of Tampa are reconnecting with the foods they eat.
“Growing your own food and how to prepare fresh food is a skill that we’re really losing,” said Alex Baron, Community Wellness Coordinator at University Area CDC. Baron is one of the people who maintain the Harvest Hope Community Garden in Harvest Hope Park.
“We come here and we feel like we know where we’re getting our food from. We know what’s being put in it,” said Micaiah, a resident of the University Area.
Every Friday morning, between 9 and 11, people go to the Harvest Hope Community Garden to pick their own food and it is absolutely free.
They grow a range of produce, from strawberries and bananas to cabbage and kale. For Rossie Valarezo, going there is an escape for her and her baby boy. “It’s my moment of relaxation. I feel so much joy seeing so many green things, natural. Also, they let us bring this stuff back home and they’re organic,” said Valarezo.
Residents even said the garden is bringing the community closer together.
“Before, the crime rate was really high and now it’s going down. Everybody’s coming together and it makes the community feel more like a family,” said Shaila, a resident of the University Area.
Baron said they see about 20 to 30 people every Friday.
“I see people eyeballing the garden when they’re walking down the park and I’ll be, you know, working on the plants or whatever, and I’ll see them eyeballing and I wave them over, you know, like, don’t be scared,” said Baron.