Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl is a visual Lent fixture in Catholic parishes and schools, including Founders Chapel and the Immaculata on the campus of the University of San Diego. This small box serves as a symbol of help and hope for people who are hungry and living in poverty all over the world.
On Tuesday, representatives from Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Diocese of San Diego and USD were on hand to congratulate and award Linda Vista’s Bayside Community Center with the first-ever local CRS Rice Bowl grant for $4,000.
Bayside, located less than two miles east of the USD campus and a place where many USD students, faculty, staff and administrators routinely do valuable community volunteer work, received the grant for its community garden project.
The garden, located in the backyard area of the center, serves as a wonderful teaching space for local students to learn about gardening and about eating healthier food they grow themselves. There’s also a part sectioned off in small plots so that members of this diverse community can come tend and grow their own food at a very reasonable price. Some of the food grown is also sold at the Linda Vista Farmers’ Market.
“It’s an honor to be the first local organization selected,” Bayside Executive Director Jorge Riquelme said. “Nowhere in Linda Vista is the idea of ‘think globally, act locally’ more real because you’re making an investment in the local community and a great part of our community is connected to the global world through migration, refugees and other means. The community garden, besides the significance it plays in terms of food security, is also one of the most significant catalysts for our community building for Linda Vista. We are very happy to see and celebrate with people who are willing to support this cause.”
The grant was awarded via the diocese’s Global Solidarity Committee, which includes Chris Nayve, USD’s director of the Center for Community Service-Learning and Cara McMahon, USD’s director of the Center for Christian Spirituality, among its membership. Linda Arreola, assistant director for the diocese’s Office for Social Ministry, and Nayve were among those present for Tuesday’s check presentation to Riquelme and to see the garden’s continued progress.
CRS Rice Bowl grants award guidelines state “preference will be given to new and innovative programs that demonstrate long-term, sustainable solutions to hunger with specific, tangible goals, measureable outcomes and specific timeframe which lead to self-sufficiency.”
Jennifer Bright, Bayside’s director of operations, said the community garden groundbreaking was in 2010, but then, through the work of dedicated staff, students and community members, such as gardener/educator Amy Zink, “it has really come to life.”
The garden is one of many sources of community pride for Bayside. The outside portion of the facility at 2202 Comstock Street has become “an environmental learning center,” Bright said. Water conservation is one aspect that has been key to the garden’s growth. A nine-barrel setup next to the community center building provides drain water storage. The harvested rainwater then replenishes the garden. There is also an aquaponics system, a fully functioning ecosystem that features both fish and plants and is monitored by community members.
The CRS Rice Bowl grant, though, is dedicated to the community garden. Zink, who has also done garden maintenance and education programs for the San Diego Cooperative Charter School and Montgomery Middle School in Linda Vista, said she’s been pleased with the chance to work on and help Bayside’s garden prosper.
“It’s so amazing,” Zink said. “One of the best things about being with the people in the garden is that we’re all from different places and different nationalities, but I learn about them and their culture. One thing we all have in common in this garden is that we’re all farmers.”
— Ryan T. Blystone