Agency Spotlight: El Nido Family Centers

Food Forward’s Fall 2019 FMR intern, Rebecca Luna, followed several boxes of fruits and vegetables as they made their way from the Torrance Farmers Market to El Nido Family Centers, Food Forward’s partner agency serving East Compton. Read on to hear what she learned about their work! 

Volunteers pose with boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables at the Torrance Farmers Market.

Throughout the United States, up to 40% of the food we produce never makes it to someone’s table. In fact, in 2010 the USDA estimated that about 133 billion pounds of food, worth $161 billion dollars, went to waste (USDA). At the same time, many families do not have access to enough nutritious food, due to prohibitive costs, the neighborhood they live in, and other factors. 11% of US households are currently facing food insecurity (USDA). As a result of segregation, redlining, historic economic disenfranchisement, and other discriminatory policies, certain communities face more challenges than others. One such community here in Los Angeles is Compton.

El Nido Family Centers provides free, nutritious fruits and vegetables to low-income families. Founded as a social service non-profit agency, El Nido Family Centers aim to provide services and programs to disadvantaged, low-income communities in Los Angeles County. Their seven locations and many programs have reached thousands of families through education, youth development, health and therapeutic services. The El Nido Family Center in East Compton has its doors open from 10 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday.

 

Volunteers collect boxes full of surplus produce at the Torrance Farmers Market.

The produce distributed by El Nido Family Centers comes from the Torrance Tuesday Farmers Market—where without Food Forward, it would end up becoming wasted food. Every Tuesday, Food Forward volunteers distribute boxes to farmers for them to fill with any surplus produce they have at the end of the market. El Nido Family Centers comes to the market, collects these boxes of produce, and takes them to their center in East Compton. On one Tuesday in September, they received 170 pounds of surplus fruits and vegetables, then headed back to their center to prepare the produce for the next day’s distribution. Their food program displays the produce for families who come to the distribution, showcasing the fresh picks of the season.

During my visit, Daisy Duran, El Nido’s Health Director, excitedly highlights the produce available for people and explains to me that families also come to the center daily for their other programs. The services provided by El Nido Family Centers are quite extensive and reach out to the community of East Compton with culturally relevant and sensitive material. The families coming by greet Daisy and I with excitement and familiarity.

 

The selection of fruit, vegetables, and bread on display for folks coming to El Nido. 

They are all invited to come to the tables and take produce they can use. As they make their selections, the community chatters about their weeks and catch-up. They explain to me what plans they have for their produce—one woman, Yasmin, says that she’ll use it to make soups and salads. She says (translated from Spanish), “I prefer to grab things I’m more used to, because I’m familiar with them.” Many people explain to me how they try to make new meals with produce they aren’t as familiar with. They also express their gratitude for the availability of free produce to take home.

Throughout the rest of the day, families continue to come in and out, picking fruits and vegetables to feed their families and neighbors. Daisy’s hopes for the future of the El Nido Family Centers food program is to add workshops, such as how to make kid-friendly healthy snacks, food preparation tips, and how to use unfamiliar produce. She also hopes to incorporate a dietician into their programming. Daisy plans to add these new programs soon, in an effort to continue working with the community and seeking new developments in health outreach.

 

A mother and son fill up a bag with nutritious food to take home. 

Visiting our partner agencies, like El Nido Family Centers, reminds us of the importance of our work throughout Los Angeles County to provide fresh produce to communities in need. Thanks to our volunteers and donating farmers, produce that would needlessly go to waste can help alleviate the burden of food insecurity for these families. The work of El Nido Family Centers helps to shape and empower communities to have the ability to choose their ideal futures. We thank El Nido Family Centers and their food program for their incredible work!

 

This post was written by Food Forward intern Rebecca Luna. 

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