By Frank Garza | Valley Morning Star
BROWNSVILLE — Juan Moya, a Texas Southmost College architecture student, stood atop a ladder to place a poster on the Gutierrez Warehouse by the Gladys Porter Zoo.
The poster showed what looked like a food truck, or a mobile farmer’s market, a vision of what TSC instructor Murad Abusalim’s class mobile market project will look like, four weeks from now.
“We want our presence to be felt here. So anyone driving by can see TSC students working on this project,” Moya said. “A week from now, they will start seeing a structure, and two weeks from now, it should be a complete structure. People will be seeing progress every day.”
Students filled bottles with anti-rust formula, while some sprayed down metal bars that would eventually help serve as the base of the mobile market. Others cleared the warehouse to make room for the project.
But the physical labor is only one aspect of the project. Before arriving at this stage, the students spent many hours sketching schematics or going over research. For every minute change the five members of the design team made, the research team adjusted.
“We learned about different materials and different options. We started from the base up,” said Celeste Cruz, a member of the research team. “Every day has been a change in pace.”
When the project is completed, many low-income families in Brownsville will have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, something that has been a problem for too long, said Melissa Delgado, director of the Brownsville Wellness Coalition
“It’s been years and years,” Delgado said. “Obesity and diabetes correlate with poverty, so giving people the incentive (to eat healthy) helps them.”
In a 2004-2007 study conducted by Susan Fisher-Hoch, a professor for the University of Texas School of Public Health, the correlation did seem apparent. Out of 2,000 participants, nearly 1 in 10 were informed through the study they had diabetes. These people tended to be of a lower socioeconomic status.
The mobile market will approach the problem in two ways:
H It will be easily accessible for low-income communities;
H And it will offer the produce at a discount.
“A simple way to put it is, if you have a bowl of Snickers and Hershey’s Kisses on your desk, you’ll eat that. But if you have a bowl of apples, bananas and tangerines, you’ll eat that. So if we can increase the access of healthy food, that’s what they’re going to grab and eat,” Delgado said.
Thankfully, recent years have been a continuous step in the right direction, Delgado said.
One example of that was the partnership last year BWC had with TSC in designing and constructing community gardens.
Because of the mobile market’s importance, extensive research had to be done, Abusalim said.
“From A to Z, how many materials, where we would find them, the base, the venue, how much it would cost, what tools, saws, paint — everything to the tiniest detail. If we didn’t come up with an accessible design, everything would come apart,” Abusalim said.
Delgado has every confidence the TSC students will go above and beyond in their task, she said.
“They’re developing ideas nobody has thought of, and it’s completely new to them to see the realization that they developed it. You could see the joy in their eyes when they realized they did this from beginning to end,” Delgado said.
In class and out in the field, Abusalim has provided guidance to his students as best as he can.
“For me as an instructor, it’s been an interesting situation to relate what I’m teaching in the classroom to what we’re doing now,” Abusalim said.
And the students get to see that there is a social responsibility in architecture, Delgado added.
“It teaches the students that it’s not only about building big structures. There’s a social responsibility too,” Delgado said. “There are projects that will really help the community.”
The mobile market is expected to be completed by the end of October. To accomplish this, the students will be going out to the warehouse every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and some Saturdays and working from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Abusalim said.
“I never thought we would get to this point because something was constantly changing or something wasn’t in (the $7,500) budget. I didn’t think this day would ever come, but I’m excited,” Cruz said.