Thursday, October 14, 2010

People’s Grocery: Support the Health and Wealth of West Oakland

West Oakland Needs Grocery Stores that:

1. provide jobs and ownership opportunities for the community
2. create wealth in the community instead of pulling wealth out of the community
3. provide healthy, organic, local produce
4. provide items that nourish our bodies and minds; and
5. create quality economic opportunity for residents.

This is the stand that People’s Grocery has always taken, and as the food system in West Oakland develops, we will continue to take this stand.

On October 5th, the Oakland City Council voted to adopt an amendment to the West Oakland Redevelopment Plan that allows the Redevelopment Agency to acquire property through eminent domain (in the Clawson/McClymonds/Bunche Subarea). Kroger (owner of the grocery chain Foods Co.) can now work with the Redevelopment Agency to acquire property in West Oakland for a warehouse food store. This situation brings to light the multitude of needs and desires experienced in the community and the challenge in choosing an outcome that works for everyone.

People’s Grocery has advocated for solutions to food access challenges in West Oakland since our founding in 2003. We’ve run mobile markets, food education programs, and a subsidized produce box program that all brought (and bring) healthy food to West Oakland. We collaborate with health and economic development organizations, gather residents for food celebrations, and work to raise the consciousness about structural racism and the role it has played and continues to play in creating and maintaining food deserts. We grow food, maintain urban gardens, and pursue effective systems change.

At the Council meeting, to build the case for a grocery store, there was a presentation on the health inequities in the West Oakland community (in short: you’re likely to die more quickly and live a life of lower health quality just because you were born and live in West Oakland, versus several other parts of the East Bay). The Redevelopment Agency offered a petition that over 900 West Oakland residents signed asking for a grocery store. Forty-three people signed up to testify on the issue. Activists, commerce associations and residents spoke about the prematurity of this decision, the need for more information and deeper analysis, and the benefits of a distributed food system. Residents and additional organizations spoke about the desperate need for a full-service grocery store.

We believe a grocery store has a vital role to play in the health of the community.

Though no longer officially connected to People’s Grocery, Co-Founder Brahm Ahmadi is developing a grocery store, People’s Community Market. Another market, Mandela Foods Cooperative, is currently operating in West Oakland. These are stores we both believe in and support, worker-owned co-ops with relationships with local farmers and a commitment to social justice. Oakland-grown grocery stores that commit to decent wages, benefits and worker-ownership would be vital for West Oakland. We want those stores to be a part of a health and economic system that helps West Oakland thrive.

We are collecting responses to a survey about community needs that can be found on our website at We’ll share the survey results, share updates about other community response to this issue, and look forward to hearing responses.