Community Center Offers Free Fresh Produce

December 7, 2017

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

The CARE Community Center in southeast San Diego will be distributing produce on Saturday, Dec. 16, for free, during their monthly Farmers Market.

The Farmers Market is held every third Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and is not an income based event. Those who are interested in attending need to simply register.

The area of southeast San Diego is located adjacent to downtown San Diego and has been historically a ethnically-diverse area and home to low-income communities.

“We are really about a hand up, as opposed to a hand down,” said Martin Arias, crime prevention specialist for the San Diego District Attorney. “We are all about building community and capacity here.”

J.J. Anderson, director of Prevention and Intervention Programs for the center, said the Farmers Market is an opportunity for them to not only offer fresh fruits and vegetables but also to offer resources to those who attend.

Anderson said people who are at the Farmers Market can seek other resources while getting food because provider partners of the center sometimes are present to offer resources.

The community center, which opened in July 2016, provides residents with services that are aimed at reducing crime through prevention and intervention.

“The real win solution is if you prevent a crime from happening,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “You prevent someone from becoming a victim and you prevent someone from becoming a defendant. Once a crime has happened everyone loses.”

Stephan said part of the intervention process is helping individuals like those who have a criminal record by putting them in contact with specialists that know what jobs are available despite their criminal record.

“That’s part of the prevention and intervention, so you’ve just saved this person from more of a criminal record and you’re saved future victims,” Stephan said.

The center also provides spaces and meeting rooms for local organizations that want to offer the community free resources.

“We’re building a community within a community,” Anderson said. “Instead of really focusing on having the services here, we take that person in and figure out exactly what service they need and then we push them to the service within their community.”

Anderson said the benefit of having the support of the Office of the District Attorney is that they can send individuals in the community to the service that they need because there is no benefit to the center to send them to a specific location.

Which is something, Anderson said, the community trusts and respects about the center.

He said they have noticed that a lot of the referrals to the center are from community members themselves and that’s how they know they are doing their job.

Building that trust, however, is something that requires a lot of work and years of showing the community that you are serious, Anderson said.

He also mentioned it is about including the community in the decisions, which he said the center has done by creating a stakeholders group.

“Everything that has been done here has been with the consent of the community,” Anderson said.

From the name, mission statement and vision, the community has been involved, according to Anderson.

“Having the trust of the community is really important,” Stephan said. “People have to be able to count on you, your consistency, that you care, that you don’t have a secondary agenda. And all that can only be built by doing as much listening as talking.”

The CARE Center, is located on 12 N. Euclid Ave. in National City, to learn more visit: sdcarecenter.org.

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