Tenderloin People’s Garden

The Tenderloin. When thinking of this neighborhood some immediately have thoughts of crime and homelessness. For those living in the neighborhood, they suffer with struggles that some of us have never experienced.

The demographics include seniors, children, and immigrants. Most are surviving without housing.

The Tenderloin district is known as a food desert. A food desert is any area in the industrialised world where healthy, affordable food is hard to find. These areas are mostly found in rural and urban areas and is most common in low-socioeconomic minority communities, and is associated with a variety of diet-related health problems.

There isn’t a Safeway, Trader Joe’s or Lucky Supermarkets in the area. The closest grocery store is about half a mile away. Residents shop at convenient stores for bread and canned foods. Residents need to travel out of their neighborhood to find fresh foods, some multiple times a week.

That’s when the Tenderloin People’s Garden comes in.

The community gardening was orchestrated in April 2010 and is part of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. The Garden is located on the corner of McAllister and Larkin Streets.


“Where we garden, we are owned by the city and are on a one year lease. This place has been vacant for over 30 years,” Community Outreach Coordinator Lorenzo Listana said.

Residents of the community volunteer their time to ensure this project’s success.

“The Tenderloin has no support, this is a good way to distribute food. This changes eating habits, when the food is too expensive, people won’t buy it. Here its free so there’s no excuse to not eating healthy,” Community Organizer Steve Woo said.

The Tenderloin People’s Garden is a garden created by residents of the Tenderloin to grow free and fresh food. Since the project started, the community has grown hundreds of pounds of food to feed the Tenderloin residents.


“We’ve have about 30 people come in and pick the food and help out. We produce 100 pounds to 200 pounds of food for the people,” Nella Manuel, the Tenderloin People’s Garden Coordinator, said.

The residents can pick produce during the garden’s open hours:

  • Monday: 10 a.m.- 12 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 3 p.m.- 5 p.m.
  • Wednesday: 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Thursday: 3 p.m.-5 p.m.
  • Friday: 10 a.m.-11 a.m.
  • Saturday: 10 a.m.-11 a.m.

The Garden isn’t limited to one type of produce or plants the same seeds with each harvest.

“Lettuce we grow year round. We also grow tomatoes and bok choy. We have potatoes, beans, onions, cucumbers, beets, eggplant and strawberries,” said Manuel.


There is a procedure if you want to pick from the garden, you have to help out. When the residents are done, they weigh their bags full of produce to see the output.


Manuel said she comes to the garden everyday to garden, clean, replant and water the plants. She’ll sometimes straighten the plots.

After they harvest the plant and clear the plot, they leave a few plots empty whenever someone wants to come in and plant seeds of their own.

Residents of the Tenderloin were filling in and out taking everything from lettuce to herbs.

“I came to pick some produce because I love to cook. I cook for the homeless and the people at my church. I got a bag full of tomatoes and lettuce,” Judy Mavis, a Tenderloin resident, said.

Manuel said, the harvest happens every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month.



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