Civil Eats contributor Sarah Henry reports at KQED’s Bay Area Bites on yesterday’s announcement by First Lady Michelle Obama on the new food financing initiative, The California FreshWorks Fund, designed to increase access to healthy, affordable food in underserved communities in California.

The local take away from the White House announcement: A full-service grocery store may finally come to the people of West Oakland. It looks like the People’s Community Market, a long-anticipated mid-size retailer in West Oakland, may be a step closer to raising the capital it needs to break ground.

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James Berk is a serious young man of few words. But when he speaks people take notice. And it’s not just because of his radio-ready baritone.  When asked why he got into the grocery business he says simply: “The food I was eating was killing me, and it’s killing my community. I wanted access to better food for myself and the people in my neighborhood.”

As a young teen, Berk’s diet largely consisted of Hot Pockets, Hungry Man dinners, soda and the “O”s (Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos, and microwavable burritos, sometimes with Cheetos stuffed inside). He knew his eating habits weren’t healthy, but the West Oakland child of a low-income single mom found food where and when he could. Read more

As Thanksgiving nears, and we turn our collective attention to the food we will be putting on the table, I have been thinking a great deal about a group of farmworkers I met earlier this month. As part of a Symposium on Food Systems and Sustainability, I had the opportunity to travel with a small group of students, professors, and advocates to Knights Landing, an unincorporated community northwest of Sacramento. There, in a community center normally dedicated to child care, language classes, and basic clinical services, we sat down with around a dozen men and women, who engage in the most labor-intensive piece of California’s agricultural puzzle. Read more

Not unlike their rural counterparts, urban farmers often make do without a secure relationship to the land they farm. Whether you’re in the city or in the country, being land-insecure makes planning the future nearly impossible. So, when the Oakland-based City Slicker Farms received $4 million earmarked precisely for acquiring land to grow food on, it came as a welcome surprise. The funding was awarded as part of a $5.4 billion state bond for projects involving water quality and access, park improvements, and natural resources and park preservation. And it’s more than a financial boost: it’s a game changer.

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