MODESTO -- Mustard greens, big in size and big in flavor, awaited west Modesto residents interested in healthy eating last week.
They came to the King-Kennedy Memorial Center to take part in what's known as "community-supported agriculture."
Subscribers make regular payments to growers and, in return, get whatever's fresh. The west Modesto version has financial help from Kaiser Permanente and the federal government.
"It's up and it's growing," said program assistant Mary Burton. "We're just trying to get the word out."
The program is for people who live, work or attend church in west Modesto, a generally low-income area of about 22,000 residents.
Households pay $20 in annual dues and varying amounts for the biweekly pickups. The produce comes from Modesto-area farms, primarily the former Heifer International training center near Ceres.
Fabiola Angeles came with daughters Angie, 8, and Mia, 5 months.
"I'm going to take a look at what they have here," she said in Spanish through an interpreter. "We do eat fruits and vegetables, but not a lot."
The program, which started last year, has about 25 subscribers. Last week, they could get winter favorites such as mustard and turnip greens, sweet potatoes, garlic, carrots, apples and oranges. Spring and summer will bring more variety.
The program is part of a $1 million nutrition and fitness grant from Kaiser to the West Modesto King-Kennedy Neighborhood Collaborative in 2011. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided $376,000.
Heifer International, a global anti-poverty group, no longer uses the five-acre farm on Don Pedro Road. It is being managed for the new effort by Shyaam Shabaka, founder and owner of the Eco-Village Farm Learning Center in Richmond.
The organizers hope to create a vegetable garden on 1.5 vacant acres across from the King-Kennedy center. The garden, which could be ready in a year, would be worked by Mark Twain Junior High School students and others.
The program also seeks low-cost produce from commercial growers. Last week, patrons could find sweet potatoes from Yagi Bros. and greens from Ratto Bros.
The program complements a weekly farmers market at Mellis Park from June through August.
At the year-round produce pickups, the first and third Thursdays of each month, subscribers can find healthy recipes. The goal is to get people away from junk food and into habits that make the most of local agriculture.
"A lot of times, before they leave, they'll snack on a carrot," Burton said.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.
AT A GLANCE
WHAT: West Modesto Community-Supported Agriculture
COST: $20 annual membership fee, plus biweekly charge for fruits and vegetables at pickup
WHEN: Produce can be picked up from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month.
WHERE: King-Kennedy Memorial Center, 601 S. Martin Luther King Drive, Modesto
MORE INFORMATION: Mary Burton or Carole Collins, (209) 522-6902
GROWERS CAN HELP: The program can use donated or discounted produce from farmers in the area. To help, call Carrie Cardoza Bordona at (209) 581-2274.