Leaders in Belonging 2024: Awardee
CEO, Project New Village
Diane Moss has spearheaded efforts to combat food insecurity in Southeastern San Diego through the promotion of food sovereignty with Project New Village. By establishing community gardens and a mobile farmers' market, she has created pathways for residents to control their food sources, contributing to community wellness and economic resilience. Diane's leadership has been pivotal in not only providing access to nutritious food but also in cultivating a sense of belonging by reconnecting individuals with their cultural food practices and promoting community solidarity through shared stewardship of local food systems.
“Our work literally starts from the roots up. It’s about nurturing the land that feeds us and the hands that till it, ensuring that every table has a meal that’s both nourishing and culturally meaningful.”
- Diane Moss
Cultivating community resilience through urban agriculture
Most nonprofit professionals talk about “getting their hands dirty” as a metaphor for engaging deeply in the community. When Diane Moss uses that expression, she’s speaking literally. As the co-founder and CEO of Project New Village in San Diego, Moss’ goal is to improve access to fresh food in Southeastern San Diego by building healthy neighborhoods and advancing social justice through urban gardening.
Her journey into the world of food justice began at a non-profit workshop, where a chance conversation with a colleague set her on a path towards addressing food insecurity in her neighborhood—a cause that, until then, had not been on her radar.
Moss knew how to advocate and organize but admits she was not a gardener at the time. Despite this, she found herself at the forefront of a movement, pushing for a food system that was just and accessible to all, especially in areas working hard to reverse the effects of historical neglect.
Project New Village began when she joined with other members of the community to transform a neglected piece of public property into a vibrant community garden and a hub for neighborhood growth and food production. Moss and her team led the group through the complex development process, which included a change in city ordinances, a shift in community perception, and significant fundraising. This collective effort sparked an ambitious vision to launch a project to establish a two-story, mixed-use facility dedicated to creating a vibrant, healthy space to connect community members with fresh, local foods and useful wellness practices.
Their journey has been a testament to community strength and shared vision. With $4 million raised of their $9 million goal, Project New Village stands as a message of hope and resilience. The project is not just about growing food, it’s about cultivating relationships, trading recipes, and learning together. Project New Village is helping backyard farmers connect and sell their produce and is building a network of growers that strengthens the community from the ground up.
The community is working to address a variety of challenges, from ensuring that healthy food is available and affordable, as well as overcoming the damage done by redlining and disenfranchisement. Whether it’s through their weekly mobile farmers market or regular community work events, the sense of unity and purpose is clear. People from all walks of life come together, laughing, picking weeds, composting, and sharing stories—a community measuring success in happiness rather than profit.
Moss admits that this journey has taken her far out of her comfort zone. Still, she emphasizes that the focus is on a collective vision, in which each person brings something meaningful to the effort. The organization has attracted a diverse group of participants, from academics to residents who have found their place and purpose in this movement.
Project New Village showcases the energy and enthusiasm of the Southeastern San Diego community. It’s a place where people are getting involved, and where every contribution, big or small, leads to positive change. “Every day we hear about all the deficits, but every day we find assets,” Moss says.
Indeed, Diane Moss and Project New Village stand out as a testament to the power of community, the strength of shared goals, and the beauty of growing not just food, but hope and solidarity.