Dating back to the early 1900s, the Chamizal neighborhood was once owned by the Mexican government but was later divided by the United States making El Paso one of the largest bi-national metroplex borders in the country1. Located at the binational border of Mexico and the United States, the area neighborhood is historically known for drug trafficking, illegal immigration, and crime1. With a 95.4% Hispanic population, over 80% of the population lives below the standard poverty line with an income below $19,000 per year2. Additionally, 45% of residents are unemployed and have either a high school diploma or below2.
Often triggered by factors such as low income or unemployment, food insecurity is defined as having inadequate limits to food due to money and/or accessibility3,4. As a result, families often have to make choices between paying bills, making mortgage or rent payment for housing, paying transportation, or paying for food in order to survive daily3. As of 2016, approximately 23.3% of children in El Paso were living in a food-insecure household. More importantly, the grocery store density for the city is 0.14 stores per 1,000 people – there is not one major grocery chain in the Chamizal and Segundo Barrio area5. As one of the most impoverished zip codes in Sun City, these two neighborhoods combined make up the largest food desert in the metroplex5.
The Mission Continues’ El Paso 1st Platoon will collaborate with the City of El Paso and the El Paso Independent School District (EPSID) to help lessen the gap of food insecurity in this community. This operation will focus primarily on increasing access to affordable fresh foods by building and expanding urban community gardens in the Chamizal and neighborhood. Through its partnerships, El Paso, 1st Platoon will assist a coalition of sites, such as local community and EPSID school gardens, with increasing the capacity, functionality, awareness and accessibility of gardens that are located throughout the area. Due to the location of the gardens at schools and educational facilities, a secondary goal for this mission is to encourage youth and families to participate in the development and maintenance of each site as a means to learn about urban and community gardening that can be replicated in their homes.