Image: Courtesy of Project New Village.

N. Diane Moss is like sunshine radiating hope on her Southeast San Diego community.

An advocate for bringing positive change to her community since the ‘90s, Moss became a founding member of Project New Village, a gathering of nonprofits creating a hub centered on health. Through this work, she began to focus on food justice as a means of social justice.

“We gather around food, yet we have a system that doesn’t work for us,” Moss says of her inspiration. “We need to take some initiative around ownership of food. We must gather to create change.”

Image: Courtesy of Project New Village.

Moss did that in 2008 by transforming a vacant lot into Mt. Hope Community Garden to catalyze community self-reliance. When the city put the property up for sale in 2019 without notifying the community, Moss took to fundraising and, with encouragement from Rich Juarez, cofounder of the San Diego Housing Federation, Project New Village bought the property. Now, Project New Village engages residents from Southeast San Diego, Lemon Grove, and National City around a Good Food District, which aims to rely on neighborhood-led urban agriculture and wealth building to promote community revitalization.

One of the garden’s first growers, Rodney West, says, “Diane is a strong visionary and a great listener and collaborator. Her work has made a tremendous difference in my life. Her compassion and love for the needs of the community prompted me to become a certified Master Gardener. I love to share my skills and expertise with my community.”

Once a month Moss gathers with the Good Food District leadership team. Comprised of members from various backgrounds, the diversely talented group works to strategically move their vision forward. During the 2020 shutdown, when lack of food was particularly prevalent, a grant award helped to refresh the garden with a communal growing space, nature-inspired art, and a pergola gathering place.

Image: Courtesy Project New Village.

Moss engaged neighbors stuck at home by creating a Neighborhood Growers Network, supplying tips on building backyard beds and sustainable growing practices. “When you grow, you’re not tied to retail—neighbors see the value of their investment and sharing,” says Moss.

Today, Project New Village is using food as a catalyst to stimulate local economic growth. This fall, they’ll launch a mobile farmers’ market that will sell and distribute food in five locations throughout the Good Food District. The mobile market will meet people where they are and accommodate varied schedules. Moss believes that a valuable part of the mission is to educate community members on the importance of eating nutritionally dense food and paying a fair price for it.

Moss credits Ellee Igoe, cofounder of Foodshed, and Ami Young, an urban farmer and artist, as sources for the bulk of her knowledge about food justice. But Young, who is also a member of the Mt. Hope Community Garden council says, “Diane walks with genuine intent and is a leader in the community of food equity warriors. Her gift is the ability to bring diverse groups together. People love to work with Diane. Her work with Project New Village and Mt. Hope Community Garden over the years has built her a reputation of trust with many organizations, creating partnerships across the city.”

“We gather around food, yet we have a system that doesn’t work for us,” Moss says of her inspiration. “We need to take some initiative around ownership of food. We must gather to create change.”

Edible San Diego Issue 67 Fall 2022
Cover image: Lauren Di Matteo.

More to This Story

Living on a Mountain of Hope originally published in the fall 2022 issue.

The mobile market is now open and looking for suggestions for more locations. Read Peoples Produce Introduces a Farmers' Market on Wheels, an exclusive feature to learn more.

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About the Contributor
Cherie Gough
Cherie Gough is an award-winning freelance writer based in San Diego. She is passionate about food equity and loves writing about innovative people finding positive solutions.Find her on Instagram @cgoughwrites.