Representatives of the community organizations that received grants pose for a photo. (Lila Brown/L.A. Sentinel)

The Freedom Farms program powered by the Partnership for Growth LA (PFGLA) announced its first round of awardees for grant funding on Feb. 22.  The grants are designed to reduce food insecurity in Los Angeles and increase access to fresh, nutritious foods.

The awards ceremony was held at The Gathering Spot in West Adams led by the Rev. Eddie Anderson, who co-founded the Partnership for Growth Los Angeles Community Development Corporation in 2020 with Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds.

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PFGLA is a Black and Jewish community development corporation established to build sustainable community wellness and cooperative development among South and West Los Angeles.

“We are gathering here together to celebrate the vision and to celebrate the cultivation, change and gardens that we see here in our community,” said Rabbi Simonds before announcing the Freedom Farm grants recipients.

“Change is possible when all of us come together to really put seeds into the ground and grow a new Los Angeles, and then hopefully grow a new California and then hopefully grow a new United States. This is the very first chapter in the very long book that we are all going to write together.”

The program launched in July 2023 with a $7 million budget allocation from the State of California. This year’s 13 awardees were offered grants totaling $780,000 to improve food access and healthy food education, specifically in West and South Los Angeles, where food disparity is most prevalent.

“We’re here to document and celebrate the mission that is urban farming in Los Angeles,” said Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove who joined the program after spending the day touring businesses around Leimert Park.

“Growing fresh food is about curing disease, sometimes emotional, physical, and psychological. Touching, connecting, cleaning, and purifying the earth along with the water and air cures us and farmers know that.

Kamlager-Dove assured the audience that she is fighting for farm and agricultural bills in Washington, D.C. after spending years touring local community gardens and small urban farms. “This is about planting seeds of nourishment, love, and healing. That is why it is so important that we support urban farmers.”

Food insecurity refers to a lack of access to enough food to live an active, healthy life. Recent data from interviews and surveys with L.A. County residents participating in the University of Southern California’s Understanding America Study indicate that 1 in 4 (24%) households in L.A. County experienced food insecurity in 2022.

The vision of PFGLA’s Freedom Farms is to create a network of urban farms and gardens that support a sustainable food distribution system to local businesses and community members.

The 13 grant awardees include Carthay School of Environmental Studies, Crenshaw Community Garden, Epworth Farm, First AME Church, Garden School Foundation, Good Earth Community Garden, Greater Watts Community Garden, Greener Way Associates, Hollywood Community Housin, LA Green Grounds, RootDown LA, Park Hills Community Church, and Social Justice Learning Institute.

The program’s community partners are the LA Food Policy Council, LA Compost, and LA Community Garden Council.