Neighborhoods in eastern Menlo Park and East Palo Alto are a "food desert" a region where residents lack access to affordable, nutritious food.
That's the message delivered to the Menlo Park City Council on Dec. 15 by seven teens with the Keystone club, a program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula that promotes academic work, career preparation and community service.
The students showed slides of bruised, rotting and overpriced produce that represented their nearest sources of "fresh" food.
"Are these the quality of foods that you see when you go to Safeway?" one student asked.
"Definitely not," another said. "We do not have the same access to quality nutrition."
Another pointed out that within a two-mile radius in eastern Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, there are four fast food restaurants, eight small corner markets with limited produce offerings, and no national chain grocery stores. That's compared with six grocery stores accessible within a two-mile radius in Palo Alto.
That lack of access to healthful food impacts public health, they said. Another student said that areas served by the Ravenswood Family Health Center, which include eastern Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, have rates of hypertension that are twice the California average.
They suggested several solutions: ask the council to help persuade Safeway to place a store in their neighborhood; work with a food company called Thrive Market, which allows people to order organic food online at wholesale prices; and create a farm-to-school program.
Councilman Ray Mueller said he worked with the student group each week for three months to prepare for the presentation. At the conclusion of their remarks, participating students received certificates of recognition from the city.