On Saturday July 27th, 2019 our Urban Food Environments team (Director Elle Mari, Project Manager Kate Mahoney, and Intern Kimberly De Guzman) led over 50 volunteers to complete a makeover at Center City Market in City Heights. Alongside market owner Omar Hussein, we completed improvement tasks at multiple work stations outside the market including: painting a mural on the wall, painting and installing artwork along the fence, planting a new tree, adding substantial new and beautiful landscaping, and sanding/staining custom built benches for seating outside the market.

This project engaged a small business, residents, and other community stakeholders together to improve the market and beautify an important corner in the Somali community at 50th and University in City Heights. We hope this project demonstrates the importance and value of investing in neighborhood-level changes that support our existing food assets within a community. This investment and community collaboration in Center City Market can improve small business patronage to ultimately maintain and grow City Heights’ rich culture of diversity and promote small neighborhood markets as good food assets in San Diego.

Special thank yous are extended to:

Project background:

UC San Diego Center for Community Health has worked with Center City Market for just over a year through our Live Well Community Market Program, which is a project funded by the County of San Diego, Health and Human Services Agency. The Live Well Community Market Program’s main goal is to work with small community/neighborhood markets to improve and promote access to healthy foods. One of the ways we do this is by helping markets redesign, renovate, and reorganize their spaces to better serve their community of local shoppers. The design work and material costs for this project have been funded by the University of California Global Food Initiative.


We see the small community food market as an important food and health asset to neighborhoods, particularly in low-to-moderate income densely populated diverse communities like City Heights. We know that better access to healthy foods is related to healthier eating and lower risk for obesity and other chronic diseases. We also know that new and/or improved retail options in underserved areas helps to create jobs and revitalize neighborhoods [1]. 14.1% of Mid-City residents receive CalFresh benefits, which is among the highest in the County [2]. It’s important to note, more people qualify for CalFresh than are actually enrolled and receive them. Good affordable food available in safe and welcoming spaces, within walkable neighborhoods, is critical to the health of our communities in San Diego.

1. Treuhaft, S. & Karpyn, A. (2010). The grocery gap: who has access to healthy food and why it matters, PolicyLink.

2. U.S. Census Bureau; 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, retrieved via Live Well San Diego Data Access Portal, 2017.


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