Cultivating Hope: So-Cal nonprofit fighting food insecurity through urban farming

With each harvest, Solutions for Urban Agriculture sow seeds of change, cultivating not only fresh produce but also a sense of hope for a more nourished future.

Food insecurity exists in pockets all across America, even in Irvine, California — located in Orange County, “The O.C.,” in the Greater Los Angeles Metro Area, which Forbes listed in the Top 20 Most Expensive Zip Codes in the U.S. in 2023—where folks are struggling to access healthy, fresh food at affordable prices.

Thankfully, a group of local volunteer farmers wanted to make a difference, working to alleviate hunger in their Southern California community. Their dedication to combating hunger and food insecurity spearheaded the non-profit Solutions for Urban Agriculture, which has transformed 40 acres of farmland into a thriving urban farm that produces more than three million pounds of fresh food each year all donated to those in need.

At the heart of this endeavor is A.G. Kawamura—a third-generation farmer, former secretary of the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture, and the visionary founder of Solutions for Urban Agriculture.

“Our group, Solutions for Urban Agriculture, has a wonderful saying: ‘It’d be nice to have edible landscapes everywhere, so there’s hunger nowhere,’” Kawamura said.

With Kawamura’s intimate understanding of the importance of agriculture in sustaining communities, along with an impressive partnership of like-minded hunger fighters, the organization has become an integral part of fighting hunger in Orange County by transforming vacant lots and available land into gardens and establishing an integrated process to supply produce to local food banks.

The organization is supported in large part by the University of California, which covers the costs of renting the farmland as well as providing the funds for other vital resources. However, the organization’s work hinges on its group of dedicated volunteers eager to make a positive impact on their community.

“The availability of volunteers has enabled us to plug into a very large population of folks that just want to do good for the community,” Kawamura said.

The collaboration between Solutions for Urban Agriculture and its extensive network of volunteers has created a ripple effect of positive change with an impact that extends far beyond the fields. Their work has become a source of hope.

The conundrum is clear: there’s an abundance of food and available land, bolstered by a willing force of individuals eager to address the crisis. Yet, the very people who need it most often find themselves cut off from this bounty due to systemic barriers. Yet, through their commitment to making change, Solutions for Urban Agriculture brings attention to the pressing issue of food insecurity and shows that everyone has a role to play in finding solutions.

“Food and nutritional insecurity is not a supply problem—it’s an access problem,” said Claudia Keller, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County and a close collaborator with Solutions for Urban Agriculture.

Second Harvest Food Bank, an organization vital to this battle against food insecurity, has formed a strategic alliance with Solutions for Urban Agriculture. By leveraging volunteer labor to harvest crops, Second Harvest can acquire these fresh vegetables from farmers at a considerably reduced cost.

In 2021, Solutions for Urban Agriculture reported their 40-acre project provided 40,000 to 50,000 pounds of fresh produce every week for people in the O.C. struggling with food insecurity.

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