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Sustainable Food Gets A Jump Start In Heart Of The City

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Eileen Pace
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Len Trevino spends his afternoons and evenings teaching karate in his dojang located at a busy intersection a little bit north of Loop 410.

Outside in the active strip center, cars and trucks come and go at the gas station, customers pop in and out of the nail salon and gaming store, and hungry customers patronize two popular restaurants.

In between the parking spaces are scattered several 8 x 10-foot landscaping beds, mostly with just one remaining dried up shrub and a thin layer of grey mulch.

That’s where Trevino sees an opportunity.

"Recently I said I was going to plant some food," Trevino said. "And I can't wait for the fall, or the holidays really, to prep the area to start growing food here instead of seeing cigarette butts and broken glass and beer bottles," he said.   

The sustainable food movement is a passionate endeavor for many, growing in size and defining itself along the way.  But the concept is unclear for others, and some say there’s good reason for that because eating is such a personal choice.

Sustainable food is a project near to Trevino’s heart. He says as a martial arts teacher, he’s accustomed to giving back. He was the brains behind Siclovia, and helped launch a farmer’s market for Lone Star Card users.

And as president of the San Antonio Food Policy Council, Trevino is on a mission to extend sustainable practices for everyone and help expand the movement toward a higher quality of food.

"It means not necessarily organic, but grown with fewer pesticides, fewer resources or artificial resources that would make producers grow this food in mass quantities," he said. 

Trevino says the sustainable food movement works to increase local procurement and reduce the footprint of food production.

"That footprint includes the transportation, the cost, the resources that tax the economy, and the environment," Trevino said. "One thought is to eat more locally-grown food, to eat seasonally, so that the food that's grown does not take two weeks to get to you.

"That food has to be picked before it's ripe and by the time it gets to you, it could be three weeks later or two weeks later. So, the more locally-grown the food, the healthier that food is for you," he said. 

Perhaps one of biggest projects for the Food Policy Council right now is its list of recommendations for the city’s Unified Development Code.

Trevino says the city will revise that code next year.

"If we partner up with the city and other key individuals in revising this code, we'll add the right language so that it will open up new opportunities to grow food," he said. "So we want to look at the definitions: What is a community garden? What is domestic farming? Look at all those definitions and make sure they're addressed." 

Back at the parking lot, Trevino and his wife are working to expand sustainability in their own little pocket of the world, right in the parking lot.

"We're going to start with one. We're going to start with this one and grow spinach and kale and peppers and hopefully it will grow and some of my neighbors here will do the same thing," Trevino said. "I'm going to ask for forgiveness instead of permission."