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This food truck brought healthy meals, fresh produce where Stockton needed it most

La Maris vegan food truck co-owner Carlos Bryant has teamed up with Stockton city councilwoman Kimberly Warmsley to address food deserts by providing free food to residents of south Stockton at McKinley Park at noon on Thursday, Feb.  2.

La Maris vegan food truck co-owner Carlos Bryant has teamed up with Stockton city councilwoman Kimberly Warmsley to address food deserts by providing free food to residents of south Stockton at McKinley Park at noon on Thursday, Feb. 2.

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Carlos Bryant, co-founder of Las Maris Vegan Food Truck, knows what it’s like to not be able to buy healthy foods.

As a child growing up on Eighth Street and B Street in south Stockton, Bryant said he saw the struggles his neighbors went through to travel to grocery stores.

“In that area, there’s really nothing besides liquor stores and small markets,” Bryant said. “You don’t have a Food 4 Less or a Target or a Walmart in that area.”

Bryant said south Stockton is not a walkable part of town, adding to residents’ difficulty to select healthy and affordable foods.

“Growing up there, I understood that some people in that neighborhood don’t necessarily have transportation or the means to get to those stores, and there’s no walkability for that community to be able to get fresh produce or things like that,” Bryant said . “That’s why I’m so adamant about this issue.”

To help some Stockton residents who live in food deserts, Bryant teamed up with Stockton City Councilwoman Kimberly Warmsley and PETA on Thursday to give out free vegan chicken burritos and watermelon aguas frescas from Bryant’s food truck.

In addition to the free drinks and meals, free bags of food — including fresh produce and nutritious vegan staples like tofu and lentils — were given out to the first 200 people who attended. The giveaway was part of PETA’s national food justice campaign, which aims to redirect the billions of dollars in subsidies for the meat, egg and dairy industries toward incentives for grocers in food deserts to stock vegetables, fruits and other healthy vegan foods.

A vegan burrito from the Las Maris vegan food truck at Pacific Avenue near Benjamin Holt Drive in Stockton.  Co-owner Carlos Bryant has teamed up with Stockton city councilwoman Kimberly Warmsley to address food deserts by providing free food to residents of south Stockton at McKinley Park at noon on Thursday, Feb.  2.

A vegan burrito from the Las Maris vegan food truck at Pacific Avenue near Benjamin Holt Drive in Stockton. Co-owner Carlos Bryant has teamed up with Stockton city councilwoman Kimberly Warmsley to address food deserts by providing free food to residents of south Stockton at McKinley Park at noon on Thursday, Feb. 2.

The giveaway was held from noon to 1 pm at McKinley Park at 424 E. Ninth Street.

“Part of the reason why this particular neighborhood was targeted is because within the whole area near the park, it is one of the most critical census tracts in the county, where communities specifically suffer because it is a food desert and there is so much food insecurities,” Warmsley said.

Warmsley added that residents in south Stockton often have poor health outcomes including diabetes, high blood pressure and childhood obesity due to limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We were very intentional about wanting to target these neighborhoods within the city,” Warmsley said.

Warmsley, who grew up in south Stockton, said the topic of accessibility to fresh produce and healthy foods for all hits close to home for her.

“My grandparents bought a house on B Street in the early 1950s,” Warmsley said. “When I was young, I remember always going to this corner store — which was called Cedar Market at that time — and my grandparents, who had their health disparities and challenges, would write a grocery list and I would go to the corner store to get their groceries.”

Warmsley said he could recall looking at the prices of the items he would buy for his grandparents and thinking Cedar Market was an expensive store.

“In my mind, I’m thinking this is a high-scale retail store,” Warmsley said. “But as I grew up and we were able to leave the community to go grocery shopping, I was exposed to what a grocery store really was and I quickly figured out that my grandparents were not mobile enough to go to a grocery store.”

Warmsley said while she shopped for her grandparents at a grocery store, she compared the prices of the items she bought there versus their prices at the corner store — this is what helped her understand the challenges that residents of south Stockton face with food insecurity.

“The groceries that they were getting from the corner store were so expensive that they didn’t have enough food to last them for the whole entire month,” Warmsley said. “They would have to go to the food banks and the community centers to get enough food to last them for a month.”

The councilwoman said her grandparents had high blood pressures and diabetes, and died at “very young ages.”

“I do correlate that with their eating habits,” Warmsley said. “However, it’s really hard to promote health and wellness and proper eating habits when you don’t have those resources and tools available in the community. There are so many residents in south Stockton who are still shopping at 7-11s and corner stores because they do not have the proper tools and support to really live healthier lives, and make healthier decisions when it comes to what they consume.”

Bryant said this was the first of many actions he plans to take to address food injustice and other issues in the community.

“I’ve always known things weren’t exactly right where I’m from and I didn’t know how I could help, but now I think I’m at a point where I can serve my community so that’s very exciting to me ,” Bryant said.

Alfredo Salguero, left, receives an order from Katie Perez at the Las Maris vegan food truck at Pacific Avenue near Benjamin Holt Drive in Stockton.  Co-owner Carlos Bryant has teamed up with Stockton city councilwoman Kimberly Warmsley to address food deserts by providing free food to residents of south Stockton at McKinley Park at noon on Thursday, Feb.  2.

Alfredo Salguero, left, receives an order from Katie Perez at the Las Maris vegan food truck at Pacific Avenue near Benjamin Holt Drive in Stockton. Co-owner Carlos Bryant has teamed up with Stockton city councilwoman Kimberly Warmsley to address food deserts by providing free food to residents of south Stockton at McKinley Park at noon on Thursday, Feb. 2.

Record reporter Hannah Workman covers news in Stockton and San Joaquin County. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @byhannahworkman. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.

This article originally appeared on The Record: Food truck in south Stockton gives away healthy meals, fresh produce