The Keck School of Medicine teamed up with the American Heart Association and Food Forward on Wednesday at Hazard Park as part of a new program to distribute free fruits, vegetables, and other groceries to the Southern California community.
The "A Tu Salud" Produce Pickup program intends to increase accessibility to healthy food in Southern California by eliminating a barrier of cost and bringing fresh food straight to the communities that need it.
In addition to "A Tu Salud," Keck offers a free physical activity class through its Adelante Program.
Ana-Alicia Carr, the community impact director for the American Heart Organization, was one of the many people who helped organize "A Tu Salud."
Carr stressed the importance of educating the local community on healthy eating habits. The American Heart Organization recognizes consuming fresh fruits and vegetables as a core element of healthy eating.
Dulce Acosta, the executive director of community partnerships for the USC Health Sciences Campus was also working at the event on Wednesday. She explained that Los Angeles is a food desert — an urban area in which it is difficult to find affordable, good-quality food.
"I think the University has to have a commitment [to] educate the community regarding nutrition and food access," Acosta said discussing USC's role in the Los Angeles area.
Andy Carrillo spent his morning giving back to his community by volunteering at "A Tu Salud."
"Here in Boyle Heights it's a low-income community," Carrillo said. "Therefore, a lot of people depend on and are grateful for the free vegetables and fruits."
Acosta noted that she had seen upwards of 200 people at "A Tu Salud," and that even more people would stop by before the day was over. Nelly Ruyz, a mother of four, was one of the many people who picked up fresh produce.
"Food is getting expensive. I remember, when I was smaller, [with $100] my mom would buy the groceries for the whole week and now I spend more than $250 a week," Ruyz said.
"A Tu Salud" is scheduled to continue on the last Wednesday of every month through July 24, 2019.
Food Forward is a non-profit that collects surplus fruits and vegetables and donates them to hunger relief agencies around Southern California. More information about Food Forward can be found on their website, https://foodforward.org/.