East Palo Alto YMCA Food Box Program


Meet Izzy Sandoval, a full-time dental hygiene student and East Palo Alto resident who found support and a sense of contribution through Fresh Approach’s farm-food box program. As someone with no income while juggling the demands of school, Izzy shares how the weekly food boxes became a true blessing, allowing her to prepare nutritious meals for herself and her partner.

Having lived in East Palo Alto for four years and previously served as a community ambassador with Fresh Approach, Izzy discovered the food box distribution through a connection with one of our community gardeners at Collective Roots Community Garden.

This past November, 2,500 pounds of fresh fruits and veggies, sourced directly from local, BIPOC farmers, made their way into the homes of over 50 East Palo Alto households. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative provided crucial funding, enabling us to not only deliver nourishing produce but also directly support local BIPOC farmers.

The idea to roll out a farm-food box distribution program at the East Palo Alto YMCA came from our Community Advisory Board (CAB), a group of BIPOC Fresh Approach’s program participants, that convenes each month to thoughtfully share their opinions, ideas, and solutions for how they envision their communities to thrive.

Last winter, our CAB came together to propose a monthly distribution of seasonal fruits & veggies with complimentary education materials for community members to learn more about the nutritional value of the produce and how to prepare them. CAB felt the opportunity for this project should be centered on serving the East Palo Alto community without limits or boundaries of race or income: it should be all about increasing access to more nourishing fresh food and offering resources for community members to self-determine what makes the most sense for their individual needs.

Deciding on who would be our produce aggregator for this project was an easy one: Pie Ranch in Pescadero. They hold ongoing partnerships with local farmers and producers, while aligning with our own vision of supporting limited-resource BIPOC farmers. For this project, they sourced from two local farms, Brisa Ranch & Catalan Farm, for the boxes.

Tia Neal, our Outreach & Engagement Program Specialist and program lead for the project, told us the East Palo Alto YMCA as our distribution site for the food boxes made sense because they’re a notable organization that holds the provision of community resources and health in high regard, while also valuing the strength of diversity in communities.

Recipients deeply appreciated the food boxes, specifically noting the freshness of the fruits and veggies, and our knowledge of alternative local food resource opportunities for folks who were wait listed for the program. Maria-Isabel tells us her and her family especially appreciated receiving the recipes each week because with their busy lives, the recipes provided guidance in preparing healthy meals using the fresh fruits and veggies from the food boxes.

Collaborating with the YMCA staff, including the Director, Rebecca Duran, helped make this project successful because she was integral in the timely distribution of food boxes and increasing our paperless nutrition education resources. It was also through CAB’s own guidance and leadership in deeply knowing the needs of the community and their connections in East Palo Alto, that helped us in successfully coordinating the project.

Tia notes that the team is looking forward to the second distribution in the Summer of 2024 in which we expect to team up with Rebecca and the YMCA again, as well as bring on local youth to aid in the roll out and facilitation!

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