Pitzer Works with Ontario to Build Community Space

The Pitzer in Ontario (PIO) Program established a 10-year agreement between the City of Ontario and Pitzer College April 5 for the use of a three-acre parcel of land near Bon View Park. 

Lucy Block, the Urban Fellow for Pitzer, said that the planning for this project started in 2010. The project was powered by the Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) Zone Initiative, funded by a $1 million grant from Kaiser Permanente. About $58,000 of the $1 million was attributed to developing the plot with the new Ontario-based Huerta del Valle organization.

“The land plot is located on a HEAL zone, which is an area where there is the most health issues,” PIO Technical Supporter Arthur Levine PZ ’13 said. “Ontario has lots of folks who are concerned with the community because of high levels of obesity and diabetes, which are symptoms of larger problems.”

Ontario, which is home to a large Latino population, is striving to create educational programs, large-scale gardening, and an urban farm to improve the community. This agreement with Pitzer will secure land for these initiatives.

“The struggle for land for the garden has come to represent more than just a space for Huerta; it is also a group of marginalized Latina folks struggling against a racist and bureaucratic system to build an autonomous, community-run space,” Ru Apt PZ ’14 said. 

Levine said that Pitzer and Huerta del Valle will continue to support community projects in the long run.

“Our goal is to develop a vibrant community where sustainable agriculture is maintained. We seek healthy food that people can feel good about,” he said.

Pitzer students and staff are working toward leadership development and building Huerta del Valle so that it eventually becomes a self-sustaining organization.

“[The college] is acting as an incubator for this organization to support the community’s project,” said Susan Phillips, Academic Director of the PIO Program and Pitzer environmental analysis professor.

“While Pitzer’s support has been integral to negotiating with the city at this stage, I ultimately believe that the organization is entirely separate from the college and will function better as an independent entity,” Apt said. “Within the first few years, Huerta will become not only a functional farm, but also a community space, employing and engaging people of all ages from the area and providing educational opportunities. Perhaps Pitzer will continue to be involved as part of a supporting solidarity network; however, the organization will operate as an independent entity.”

Andrea Flood PZ ’16 emphasized that Pitzer’s involvement in the project does not mean that there is an “imagined void the community possesses in terms of knowledge, health, or taking action.” The idea is to bring people together to “embody, grow, and manifest these things that already exist actively within Ontario to continue to transform community health.”

Marcela Jones PZ ’14 also clarified Pitzer’s role.

“Charity work and community engagement are different concepts. We are providing services to a community. We find out what people really need and look from their perspective on the situation. We don’t come in and tell them what we are going to do,” she said.

Levine said that they are aiming to have a garden by this summer.

“For now, before the people can start planting, we need the city to install the water,” Levine said. “It will take a month or two before plants start to grow, but by June, we are looking for a garden.”

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