January 18, 2017

An urban farm in Bell, California, is helping the homeless find hope

Program provides food, jobs and therapy to residents of nearby shelter

Raised vegetable beds such as this one are common in urban farming settings.

Photo by Flickr user normanack.

The city of Bell, California, is one of the smallest in the country. It also happens to fall within Los Angeles county, which according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development has the second largest number of people experiencing homelessness in nation.

Thankfully, Bell is also the home of the GrowGood urban farm, a food-based program that provides food, therapy and jobs to residents of the nearby Salvation Army homeless shelter.

The shelter serves approximately 6,000 meals per week. The farm, which provides produce for the shelter, makes healthy eating more feasible for an underserved demographic in an industrial area with little green space. In 2016, the farm produced roughly 7,000 pounds of produce; in 2017, they hope to more than double that output, with 20,000 pounds.

The local shelter is essential to the farm’s success, as residents help staff the farm. The relationship is symbiotic.

“When somebody comes here and views themselves as part of an essential system, it is incredibly healing,” Corinne McAndrews, the head farmer, tells Seedstock, a sustainability agriculture blog. The shelter’s residents who work on the farm also learn basic job skills, such as communication, accountability, and being on time.

McAndrews is optimistic about GrowGood’s impact on the community. But she also looks to other communities to help carry the torch.

“We’re motivated about the potential to have this sustain itself and show other people that it can work,” McAndrews tells Seedstock. “We want to continue to connect with the philanthropic world, but also with chefs who want to build a resilient food future, where we have small-scale farms all over the country that can support people.”

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor to The Renewal Project.