Over the course of five hours each Monday, up to 200 food-insecure families come to Veggielution’s six-acre space in the back corner of Emma Prusch Park to pick up a box of fresh produce. This week, those boxes held something a little different.
Contained in each one were ingredients to make two different soup recipes from Veggielution’s long-time Eastside Grown entrepreneurs Bertha Aguinaga and Guilianna Glassman. The added touch shows just how Veggielution—a full-functioning urban farm that offers a smorgasbord of community activities—continues to serve residents of East San Jose, a region that has been hit disproportionately hard by Covid-19.
“In the spirit of community building and sharing a meal together, we wanted to make sure we were still doing something specifically for our community members on the East Side who have been most impacted by Covid,” Emily Schwing, Veggielution’s marketing and impact manager, said in an interview with San Jose Inside.
Through its Eastside Connect program, Veggielution provides 200 farm fresh boxes every week to its community members. In addition, with the help of graduates from its Eastside Grown Program, Veggielution prepares hot meals for delivery via their food truck.
Veggielution partners with several organizations, including other local urban agriculture organizations and small farms to get fresh produce. Schwing said Spade and Plow, a community agriculture program in San Martin, has been instrumental in helping Veggielution continue to serve fresh organic food to underserved communities.
Bank of America also gave Veggielution a sizable donation at a critical time during the pandemic, which enabled the farm to to not only feed 40 families every week with farm fresh boxes, but also made it possible to open a farm stand two days a week that accepts CalFresh and allows people to to supplement their boxes with whatever they need, whether it be rice, beans or cleaning supplies.
“Bank of America came in when we were in between grants and wasn’t sure how we were going to continue our funding,” Schwing said. “They helped keep our program going.”
Currently funded by the city of San Jose’s Collective Impact Grant, families in the Eastside Connect Program have a say in what goes in their farm fresh boxes, addressing their most pressing needs. Every time families visit the farm, they are offered personal protective equipment and other Covid-19 testing resources.
The organization’s East Side Grown Fellows directs families to the farm’s on-site storefront, where they can pick up select items. “This is all about listening, focusing and truly honoring what they’re saying about their needs,” Schwing said.
Even amid a pandemic, Veggielution’s mission remains the same: to connect people from diverse backgrounds through food and farming to build community in East San Jose. Schwing credited all of Veggielution’s partners and support organizations that have continually supported the work it’s doing.
“A lot of our work is done in partnership with community members,” she said. “In fact, we’re working with 12 local East San Jose residents who help lead some of our programs and have stepped up to help their community.”