Wednesday, June 15, 2011

As posted on Oakland Local by Jonathan Darr...

People's Grocery’s West Oakland Grocery Store Project has closely followed the possible arrival of big box grocery stores in the city and specifically in West Oakland. As many know, we've worked on this issue for several years, and are very interested in the road ahead. When Kroger/Foods Co began looking to locate here, we wanted to help centralize a resident voice in the conversation.

Since January, we've surveyed more than 350 residents in English and Spanish, held two meetings with respondents and meetings with other organizations interested in the issue. Last night, we shared the survey data with residents and partners as part of a community dialogue at the West Oakland Public Library.

Facts from the survey:

-Across race and income level, all respondents highly value grocery stores being "friendly, safe environments" and having "fresh, quality produce".

-More than 90% of those surveyed believed that well-paying, local jobs were a priority.

-More than 90% also said that “putting wealth into the community” was a top priority.

At Tuesday’s meeting, residents brought great insight about both the need for and the history of grocery stores in West Oakland. Their comments supported the survey data. Residents want to see grocery stores come and invest in the community. They want those stores to offer healthy food in a safe environment that brings well-paying jobs for local workers.

At the meeting there was also a popular thread about the aesthetics of the grocery store. People are looking for something inviting and beautiful to be part of the community. They believe the store is a vital part of the place and space around it.

Transportation issues were also raised. Assembled community members believe it is important to bring stakeholders like AC Transit into the conversation and for any new store to be easily accessible by public transportation.

Respondents hope new stores will stimulate other businesses to come to West Oakland as well.

While this was a group primarily comprised of adults – residents value bringing youth voices into the conversation. Specific efforts will be made to collaborate with youth serving organizations and young leaders in the community.
West Oakland community members will meet again in two weeks to focus on issue areas including: access to quality foods, communication and futher community outreach, and economic opportunity. Groups will develop plans and share with the greater community.

The West Oakland Grocery Store Project is just one of the ways People’s Grocery works to centralize the voice of residents in projects to improve the health and food systems of West Oakland. We are specifically interested in working with residents to achieve food and health systems equity and believe increased access to healthy foods is a vital part of that process.

As we work with the community on creating or attracting stores that are valauble community assets, we want to acknowledge others who are working on approaches to developing a functional food system in West Oakland. Groups like City Slicker Farms, Mandela Foods, Mo’ Betta Foods, and OBUGS, as well as others are all valuable parts of the solution to food insecurity and health challenges. We also look forward to People’s Community Market, a project our founder, Brahm Ahamadi is developing to address some of the key challenges we are hearing about from our community.

Special thanks to Caleb Feldman from the Anne Braden Project, for his help with our survey and all of the community members who went door-to-door, to partner organizations, and to their peer groups.

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