OXNARD, Calif. – A local garden has been providing food to the Ventura County community for years, but the demand has increased due to the coronavirus pandemic and hasn’t slowed down.
Many people at the Senior Nutrition Program Garden say it’s a labor of love. 19-year-old Tayahna Agtarap has been volunteering for more than a year.
“At the beginning of the pandemic I was looking for something to do, especially being locked inside of the house,” said Agtarap. “I decided to come and volunteer and I noticed that there was so many amazing people around here and all of the work that we had to do is so therapeutic.”
The Ventura County Area Agency on Aging created this garden back in 2007, but during the pandemic, food insecurity for older adults became a major concern. The senior nutrition program serves more than 200,000 meals a year but during the COVID-19 crisis, the demand grew to 1.2 million.
“It serves older adults and people with disabilities throughout Ventura County, and individuals who normally don’t have access to fresh fruit and vegetables,” said Jannette Jauregui of the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging.
The garden is located next to Food Share in Oxnard. It started as an acre of land, but has nearly doubled in size.
“Right now we have over 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables ranging from potatoes, carrots, a lot of corn, to more exotic stuff like dragon fruit,” said Christopher Fiorello, manager at the Senior Nutrition Garden.
The garden produces about 1,500 pounds of produce a week. Volunteers maintain and harvest the crops.
"Everyone comes out here for one reason and that is to grow food and give it away to folks who need it,” said Fiorello.
COVID-19 case numbers are improving, but the meal program won't stop.
“It is amazing to know that everything that I do here ends up going to other people who need it and it is honestly honoring to be able to be a part of that,” said Agtarap.
For more information about the garden and how to volunteer, click here.