Earth week addresses healthy eating

Ron Finley, co-founder for Los Angeles Green Grounds, gave the Earth Week keynote address entitled "Food Injustice" last Wednesday at Santa Monica College. LAGG is an organization that works to change parkways into gardens in South Los Angeles, and seeks to advocate for gardening and educate the community about the need for fresh, affordable food, according to LAGG's website.

Finley said he witnessed the everyday bad eating habits of Americans, especially of residents in South LA.

Tired of how things never seemed to change, Finley decided he had to become the change.

"I took my shovel, my weapon of choice, and I took my parkway and I planted on it," he said.

Together with LAGG, Finley started to slowly change the parkways around the city. However, as their vision grew, so did the opposition.

"The garden, it was beautiful," he said. "Then someone complained. The City came down on us."

Despite the City requiring the removal of the parkway gardens, Finley and LAGG continued to fight.

After the Los Angeles Times ran a story on the opposition, and 900 signatures were collected, Finley said, the restrictions on parkway gardening were removed, and they were allowed to continue gardening.

Finley handed out a bag of Cheetos and soda to the attendees in the first few rows during the lecture. He challenged them to look up the nutrition facts and tell him if they see something wrong or unhealthy.

After some deliberation, a female student mentioned that the Cheetos contain carmine color.

"Carmine color? See, that's the problem," said Finley. "I have no idea what carmine color is. I know it's not in my car."

Finley stressed the importance of changing bad habits in the inner cities all across America. He said that to change a community, you have to change the soil of that community, meaning both the actual soil and the people of the area.

"The drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys," Finley said.

Finley referred to his passion for sustainability and healthy food habits as his "gospel." "I consider South Los Angeles to be a food prison," he said. "A densely populated concrete jungle surrounded by fast food restaurants, liquor stores and vacant lots."

LAGG has spread its message all across South LA, teaching both kids and adults how to grow their own food.

Finley has also visited a homeless shelter downtown to plant an organic garden. "It was beautiful to see the way gardening affected these people," said Finley.