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Community working to transform Oak Park's food desert stigma with garden

Over the course of two months, community members were able to transform a lot that's been empty for decades into a community garden.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Oak Park has been a known food desert for decades, but community members want to change that.

Over the course of less than two months, Alex Hoang worked to turn an empty lot into a community garden. Hoang runs the Oak Park Eggery, an urban chicken composting operation. The business upcycles food scraps and uses it for their chickens.

Hoang wanted to bring fresh and healthy foods to Oak Park, which he says has been historically a food desert.

"There are no food options except for chips and sodas at the corner market. If somebody wants quality food, they’re forced to have a car and drive outside of Oak Park if they want to eat healthy," Hoang said.

That's one of the reasons he created the Tanama Garden. The garden is located behind the Colonial Theatre off of 12th Avenue near Stockton Boulevard.

"This was just an empty lot that sat here for over 30 years and there’s over 200 empty lots in Oak Park," Hoang said.

He and other members of the community spent two months converting it from a bunch of grass and weeds into a community garden. They used resources in the community to get the plants for the garden, as well as multiple different waste streams to upcycle compost that would've been thrown away.

"Now we’re producing food that’s going directly to the community. We have a pollinator garden, so we’re also bringing in native wildlife that people can just drive by or walk through and see," Hoang said.

The garden has fresh fruits and vegetables like avocados, zucchini, potatoes and even bananas and custard apples. Hoang hopes that this can be used as an example for future community gardens and that Oak Park can become a walkable area.

"Within a few months we can convert all these lots into community spaces, whether it’s a pocket park or a food production in our food desert," Hoang said. "My hope is that community members take charge of the lots in their neighborhoods and convert them so that we can just have more places to go and improve the culture of the neighborhood."

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