Food and Faith is a blog of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
Valley Verde (Green Valley) is located in the Santa Clara Valley in California. PHP provided a first-time grant to them for their work in 2013 to address poverty and food insecurity among vulnerable California residents living in low-income neighborhoods in Gilroy and San Jose. Most of the participants are recent immigrants. Valley Verde provides everything they need to establish organic home gardens and the residents take it from there with support and guidance from mentors throughout the year. Here is Esperanza's story.
Esperanza, a mother of two children pictured here, is growing healthy food for her family.
Back in her home country Esperanza wanted to have a career. She went to college and studied business. When her husband decided to move to the US in search of better employment opportunities, Esperanza didn't want to follow him. But then she realized that staying alone with her daughters didn't feel right. About a year ago, she moved to the US to join her husband. At the beginning, she struggled to find a sense of community and to access healthy food for her family.
But that changed when she learned about the gardening program provided by Valley Verde. Esperanza had never gardened before, but her daughters were so enthusiastic about the program that she decided to take a chance. Valley Verde helped her plant a garden and taught her how to take care of it.
Esperanza now has two beautiful garden beds, and she is able to provide high-quality, organic vegetables to her children. The garden has helped Esperanza's family economically because she no longer has to purchase some vegetables from the store. As importantly, Esperanza feels less lonely, is active and is engaging with others in the community.
"My garden really helped me to feel better and less lonely. I see how my plants are growing and changing every day and I feel good about growing my own food. I haven't bought lettuce or cabbage for the last four months" (Esperanza, 2013).
Federal food assistance programs, particularly WIC and SNAP, have the ability to carve out spaces in which individuals can be empowered... The increased buying power that SNAP offers low-income families and individuals is a tool they can use to take control of their diet. WIC, even with the restrictions, is yet another tool. These resources, along with other resources such as budgeting and nutrition education, provide a space in which individuals have authority over what they eat and how they use their personal resources. And this authority, this control over their being, gives spaces for empowerment.