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ULV Unites for MLK Day of Service to Promote Local Sustainability

MLK Day of Service 2024 group shot of volunteers in garden

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, the University of La Verne leaped into action for a chilly winter’s day of service focused on local environmental sustainability through gardening. 

The issue of food insecurity is prevalent across Southern California and the greater Los Angeles area. In the Inland Empire alone, roughly 400,000 people do not have access to enough food on a daily basis. Many local areas are designated as “food deserts” or residential locations that lack access to fresh and nutritious produce.  

To help combat this need, university community members collaborated with local Church of the Brethren’s Peace and Carrots Community Garden to learn about sustainable gardening and help plant seeds for their next harvest.  

Peace and Carrots is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making a positive local impact by providing food education opportunities to students and community members interested in nutrition, gardening, and food growth. Alumna Kristina Flores ’20  and her fiance Marvhic Guinto are at the forefront of this initiative. As master gardeners at the community garden of four years, they play a pivotal role in living into the values of civic and community engagement by providing gardening expertise and raising awareness on food insecurity with the community. 

“[The United States is] ranked top 10 for gross domestic product per capita, but ranked pretty low for food insecurity,” Flores said. “One in five Black American households are food insecure compared to white families, which is one out of ten.” 

To combat these inequities, Flores and Guinto make sure to consistently give back to the community. They donate between 20 to 30 pounds of produce a month to local food shelters, like Inland Valley Hope Partners, and send approximately 2,000 pounds of food a year to local families and people in need. 

During the service event, the group of approximately 30 students, faculty, alumni, and staff planted seeds for vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, bok choy, lettuce, radishes, and more. They even got to taste their winter selection of in-season citrus; oranges, mandarins, as well as snap peas, strawberries, broccoli, radishes, and lettuce. A surprise hungry Monarch caterpillar also shared itself with the group, reminding everyone of the cyclical ecosystem they are helping steward.

They all learned best practices for gardening and how to start their own gardens. Mira Juncay, a junior kinesiology major at the event, took away many lessons from the master gardeners and the community members tending to their plots. “I’ve learned more about the seasons and when to plant,” she said. “It’s been a nice experience and I look forward to volunteering more.”

At the end of the day, they weighed and tallied their results on the picnic table. In total, the team planted 90 sproutlings and harvested over 130 pounds of produce to give to local food banks and the Leo Food Pantry, the university’s food distribution center. Flores encourages students to acknowledge their accomplishments consider the impact of their service beyond a single day.

Even though MLK had a dream for us all to be equal, we are still not there yet” she said. “We need to do good for the community and invest in the community. What’s good for us is good for everyone.”