(OrganicJar) West Oakland California was once a vibrant industrial city where everything seemed abundant. Today, West Oakland is a concentrated poverty neighborhood, where liquor stores outnumber grocery stores 40 to one, and the most abundant and readily available food is fried. This categorizes West Oakland as “food insecure” as well as a “food desert”, due to that its residents have limited access to healthy and fresh food. Urban agriculture has proven to be a suitable solution to food insecurity as it enables local residents to access healthy and affordable food. Grassroots organizations such, as City Slicker Farms and People’s Grocery have started various projects to combat food insecurity in West Oakland, most of which depend on urban agriculture. These grassroots organizations serve as models from which many urban residents can learn from to ensure that they are food secure and sovereign.
Urban agriculture addresses the problem of food insecurity by providing urban residents the opportunity to learn to grow their own food, reconnect with the land, and gives them access to nutritious food at affordable prices. Urban agriculture is a key component to developing a sustainable community food system, and has the potential to alleviate many of the problems that food deserts face (obesity, diabetes, etc.)
City Slicker Farms, a leader in urban agriculture in West Oakland is a food justice community-based organization that has and continues to increase food self-sufficiency in West Oakland by creating organic, sustainable, and high-yield urban farms as well as back-yard gardens. City Slicker Farms has transformed empty lots into urban farms where they grow seasonal organic produce, which is then made available to West Oakland residents at very low prices. City Slicker Farms focuses on increasing the amount of food available to West Oaklanders by starting new urban farms and helping local residents grow their own food; this organization has empowered West Oakland residents by literally and figuratively providing tools for self-reliance and food-sovereignty.
People’s Grocery, a local non-profit organization practices urban agriculture as a change agent for West Oakland’s food insecurity problems, and believes that when people grow their own food, it is a radical act of resistance to the global industrial food economy. People’s Grocery collaborates with students, neighbors of all ages, and other community organizations to build a network of food independence in West Oakland. The founders of People’s Grocery, Brahm Ahmadi, Malaika Edwards and Leander Sellers felt the need to fight for food justice in their community, and change the way the food system works. Therefore People’s Grocery has focused on the development of cooperatively owned grocery stores in West Oakland, and are widening their approach by participating in the West Oakland Economic Development Workgroup through which they are developing partnerships with local coalitions to ensure a quality food system for West Oakland. The success of People’s Grocery relies on both collaborative and committed community members as well as urban agriculture as it provides them with the resources necessary to ensure the access to healthy food as well educational and community building grounds.
City Slicker Farms and People’s Grocery are great examples of how grassroots community-based organizations can help improve the way that urban residents connect to their food and their environment. These organizations were started by residents of a food desert and food insecure community and have been able to expand urban agriculture in order to benefit urban residents. Get involved, get together with those who care to improve our food system, and what a better way to start than doing it in your own city.
: Alejandra Cano