About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,


Monday, August 10, 2009

Benito's Garden

The other day I was walking back to my apartment, when all of a sudden I noticed that there were huge young corn stalks shooting out of the ground at the base of the building next to mine. Someone had planted a tiny urban garden, making use of a 6 inch wide strip of land to grow corn, mint and peppers.

I started asking everyone hanging out outside of the buildings who was responsible for this incredibly creative use of land. "It is Benito," everyone told me. "Benito did that."

I was overjoyed when I heard this; Benito and I are already quite good friends.

Benito is probably about 80 years old. He has the leathery skin of someone who has worked outside for decades. He was born in Mexico, and he and I only speak to each other in Spanish. On the weekends he sits outside of our building with his friends drinking beer and listing to Mariache music very loud on his portable hand held radio. Some might find this annoying, but I feel safer in a ground floor apartment when he is there. I think his presence protects me, in a way. It is eyes on the street, at least. During the week Benito washes cars in our neighborhood. Every other week I let him wash mine. He charges me $8 and hand washes the thing from top to bottom until it shines. I always overpay him, and I also always give him my recycling instead of putting it in the city bin. He is willing to go through all the effort of taking it to the recycling center for the rebate - more power to him. We have quite a good relationship, Benito and I, and I was so pleased that he was responsible for the garden.

I found him right away and started asking him about it. He insisted that I take some mint, and told me all about his garden.

I really love this garden that Benito built because it isn't in an organized community garden space. He found that our landlords were not open to his gardening, so he moved his plantings next door where the landlords would look the other way. This is exactly the type of micro-micro-farming I have been talking about, and here it is, right next door to my apartment!


  1. Hey, Julie!
    I don't know whether to be more delighted that Benito planted those seeds so wisely or that he has a devoted fan in the young blogger!
    Older people are often discounted and given short shrift-most especially when they are not "pink" so hugs to both of you from the plains of Nebraska, where the corn is as high as an elephant's eye and stretches for as far as the eye can see.

    -Mother Connie

  2. Glad you enjoyed. I send you mint from the garden. In spirit.