City Lights: Cut your commute and help others

We all remember the folk tale "Stone Soup" from elementary school.

That's the one where a pair of travelers set up a kettle in a town square and announce that they're cooking stone soup, then gradually entice the villagers to throw in vegetables and spices until they've made enough to feed the entire town.

The lesson, of course, is that you can get people to contribute just by convincing them that you have something in the works. Right now, a nonprofit in Huntington Beach's Oak View neighborhood is attempting just that — except that instead of a stone, it really is starting with vegetables and spices.

The Oak View Renewal Partnership, a nonprofit that formed a few years ago to serve some of Surf City's lowest-income residents, launched a farmer's market May 21 in the parking lot of Ocean View High School. The H.B. Mercado Certified Farmer's Market already features a dozen or so vendors offering food, flowers and art, and organizers hope to inspire Oak View residents to set up booths.

It can be hard to believe that in the heart of affluent Surf City lies one square mile where, according to the nonprofit, nearly 40% of residents live in households of seven or more and 97% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. But between Talbert and Warner avenues, Beach Boulevard and Gothard Street, that's the case.

The nonprofit, run by Executive Director Iosefa Joey Alofaituli, started the farmer's market after conducting a community survey about health and wellness. Many residents responded that they wanted more healthy food choices and that they didn't want to have to travel to Santa Ana to buy their favorite ethnic ingredients.

The farmer's market, then, hopes to offer those choices within walking distance. But Alofaituli hopes the weekly event will lure more than just Oak View residents.

On Saturdays, Ocean View often hosts basketball tournaments, car washes and other events — in Alofaituli's view, a built-in clientele. During the first market, the PTSA put on a used book sale near the food vendors. And for the official grand opening this Saturday, the organizers plan to bring in live musicians, a dance troupe and a karate demonstration from the Boys & Girls Club.

"We ultimately see this as an area where the communities can integrate, and the Ocean View campus is that catalyst," Alofaituli said.

I stopped by the market its second weekend, and it already looked like a catalyst for something. As the school bustled with activity, vendors arrived early to set up their booths and residents milled around. Alofaituli served as translator for a Spanish-speaking resident who told me how glad he was to find a market down the block — both for the available cuisine and for the community investment.

So if you want to support one of the needier parts of Surf City, head down to the Ocean View parking lot Saturday morning. I might just come again myself. After all, Santa Ana is a long drive for me too.

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

If You Go

What: H.B. Mercado Certified Farmer's Market grand opening

Where: Ocean View High School, 17071 Gothard St., Huntington Beach

When: 10 a.m. Saturday (farmer's market 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays)

Information: (714) 596-7065

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