April 4th, 2014
09:36 AM ET

Building a Healthy Community in 'The Nation's Salad Bowl'

In "the nation's salad bowl," as California's Central Valley is often called, fresh produce grows in abundance.

But for many area residents, healthy food is out of reach.

"Here we are in this agriculturally rich area and yet people who live here and work here are hungry, are impoverished," said Sarah Ramirez, an educator who grew up in the area.

"(Some) are working in the fields that feed the entire country and then they don't have the resources to support them and their health. It's heartbreaking."

For the last two years, Ramirez has been on a mission to build a healthier community in her impoverished hometown of Pixley.

She and her husband launched Be Healthy Tulare, a grass-roots movement to collect produce that would otherwise go to waste and get it to neighbors in need. The group is named for the county where Pixley is located.

"Looking outside and seeing trees just loaded with fruit, I was just feeling like, why aren't we connecting these pieces?" Ramirez said.

Twice a month, Ramirez and volunteers gather fruit and vegetables from farms and backyard trees. They glean from growers and residents who contact them about their excess produce. The group then provides the bounty to a local food bank that distributes it to families in need.

So far this year, Ramirez said, she and her group have collected and donated 20,000 pounds of produce.

See full story at CNN Heroes.

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