COMPTON, Calif. — Walking through the Compton College Farmers Market on opening day, Adriana Regalado Aguilar loves checking out all the fresh produce. The Compton native recently earned two associate’s degrees while juggling work as a nurse’s assistant.
“Sometimes it’s stressful, especially focusing on school and being a full-timer, even a part-time student, nutrition is key,” she said.
Aguilar said she’s struggled with hypothyroidism and nutrition helped improve her health, but fresh food wasn’t easy to come by, especially as a college student facing food insecurity. She relied on whatever free meals she could get.
“You know, especially when you’re a college student, you are very low income and yeah, that’s the real struggle, trying to find what is your next meal or even snack,” Aguilar said.
And there was certainly no farmers market, which launched Nov. 2 on the campus, a collaboration with the nonprofit SEE LA that coordinates farmers markets and nutrition programs across South LA. Manager Marie-Alise Recasner de Marco said students can pay for food at the market through federal nutrition assistance programs including Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks and CalFresh. There is also a Market Match program, which gives CalFresh participants up to $20 to buy fruits and vegetables.
“So they are really going to be able to expand their ability to purchase healthful foods, it’s just a win-win all around,” she said.
For students, the struggle to access fresh food is a nationwide problem. A recent study from the Center for Community College Student Engagement shows 29% of community college students face food insecurity and 21% cut down meal sizes or skipped meals over 30 days because they lacked money.
Recasner de Marco said the new market is vital considering the area is a food desert and the closest farmers market is about 14 miles away.
“Whereas our other farmers markets are all within fives miles of one another so it just shows you how big of a gap we’re talking about,” she said.
Although Aguilar is transferring to California State University, Long Beach soon, to study nutrition, dietetics and psychology, she said current students are lucky to have this market on campus.
“We didn’t have that option of picking out from the farmers market,” she said. “So it’s very fortunate for those now that will continue to have this opportunity.”
The new Compton College Farmers Market takes place every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.