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A Grocery Store For The People Planned For West Oakland Food Desert

Brahm Ahmadi spends a lot of time thinking about something most people take for granted: grocery stores.

But it hasn’t always been this way. As one of the founders of the nonprofit People’s Grocery in West Oakland—the Bay Area’s most notorious food desert—he and his colleagues started out with more affordable, less ambitious projects, like a mobile food delivery service and a local community-supported agriculture (CSA) box. But it quickly became clear—as several grocery chains tried to enter the neighborhood and failed, and residents were left relying on corner stores or taking long trips by public transportation to other neighborhoods—that the area needed a reliable, independent grocery store. Read more

Berkeley Group Has Plan to Fix School Food in Oakland

The meeting was held in San Francisco earlier this week at the offices of SPUR, a nonprofit created to promote good planning and good government. The focus of the discussion: an ambitious plan to overhaul Oakland Unified School District‘s inadequate and antiquated school food service. But the driving force behind what could be a model program for re-imagining school lunch in large school districts around the nation is a Berkeley-based nonprofit that has quietly been rethinking school lunch for many years.

No, not that nonprofit. The Center for Ecoliteracy recently released a detailed feasibility study that, if implemented, would amount to a massive makeover for the OUSD school food program. It includes recommendations for a newly outfitted, green central commissary with a 1.5-acre edible farm in West Oakland, refurbished existing kitchens, and the development of 14 school-based community kitchens dotted throughout the school district, which serves 38,000 students at 101 schools, 70 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The community kitchens are envisaged as places where budding edible entrepreneurs and local organizations with a food focus could work, for a fee, during after-school hours. Read more

FLOTUS & Food Deserts: California FreshWorks Fund to Increase Access to Healthy, Affordable Food (VIDEO)

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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Oakland City Slickers Get a Permanent Home

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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From a Forager’s Memoirs: Hachiya Persimmons

Each year, between November and February, slowly and intently, hachiya persimmon altars begin to take root in my North Oakland apartment. They form on my kitchen window sill; on my bedroom dresser; on my dining room table; on my office desk. I fall into the familiar habit of always having one or two persimmons in my bag in case, in the course of the day’s travels, I meet a neighbor to whom I’d like to bestow a persimmon. Read more

Why We Harvest: An Urban Fruit Gleaning Manifesto

Imagine gathering several friends for morning, midday, evening or weekend foraged city bicycle rides through your neighborhood. Rough maps are drawn, noting the forage-ables that can be found at each location and ‘cold calls’ are made to your neighbors asking if you can sample a fruit from their backyard tree. You have the courage to introduce yourself (despite the pervasiveness and acceptance of urban anomie) and they reward your neighborliness with a sample of Santa Rosa plums, for example. Later, when you find yourself with a surplus of Persian mulberries, you, in turn, deliver a small basket to said neighbor. With time and in this fashion, a community of people who care for and know one another is built, and rather than being the exception, this could be the norm.

This is not idealistic, rather it is necessary, pragmatic, and creative — especially in times when much of the world is suffering from lack of access to healthful and satisfying fresh food. Forage Oakland is a project that works to construct a new model, and is one of many neighborhood projects that will eventually create a network of local resources that address the need and desire for neighborhoods to be more self-sustaining in meeting their food needs. At its core, it works to address how we eat everyday, and how everyone can benefit from viewing their neighborhood as a veritable edible map, considering what is cultivated in any given neighborhood and why, and what histories influence those choices. The gleaning of unharvested fruits; the meeting of new neighbors; the joy of the season’s first hachiya persimmon (straight from your neighbor’s backyard, no less); the gathering and redistribution of fruits that would otherwise be wasted — can be powerful and can work to create a new paradigm around how we presently think about food in our collective consciousness. Read more

Eat Real Festival: And the Taco Recipe Winner Is…

With just six weeks to go until Eat Real Festival, we’re very excited by the more than 40 street food vendors who will be selling their delectable treats from a wide assortment of wheeled carts. We’ve got an amazing array of homemade empanadas, tamales, pupusas, bbq, sandwiches, aquas frescas, nuts and fruit. To emphasize the real-world ways to eat homemade “fast foods,” we launched the Eat Real Killer Taco Recipe contest two weeks ago.

It was tough sorting thru all of the submissions and their different variations, but we finally decided on the winner of our Killer Taco Recipe Contest. Erin Vang totally wowed us with her “Tacos Natalia”—an Indian/ Spanish fusion with snapper ceviche (Editor: See comments for alternatives) and homemade tortillas! Her delicious recipe is also included in our special taco-themed produce box available from the Fruit Guys. Make sure to order your box by July 27. Below is Erin’s recipe. Read more

Mayors Newsom and Dellums Advance Good Food Policy

In Oakland, California last week, the political momentum seemed to clearly and perhaps irrevocably shift to formation of a sustainable food system for the nation. Hailing from three western states and Washington DC, 120 leading activists (from farms, ranches, philanthropy, businesses and NGOs), 15 USDA officials, and two important northern California mayors focused on the issues of food security, foodsheds, and public-private partnerships to accelerate change. The take home message from this groundbreaking summit is that an essential set of sustainable food concepts has pierced the intellectual membrane that shapes the American political scene. Perhaps it is only a matter of time until this welcome and healthy infection takes over the body politic. Read more

Your Favorite Taco, Please?

The Eat Real Festival is just two months away (August 28 – 30: mark your calendar!), and months of hard work chasing down taco trucks and street food vendors, listening to bands, and tasting local ice creams is drawing to a close. As we get ready to put on the event, we’re looking for some real-world ways to eat great homemade “fast foods” everywhere. We want your very favorite homemade taco recipes to be able to share with participants in Eat Real who want to replicate the great fresh street foods they taste at our event at their own homes. Tell us how you mix your masa, spin stories about your spices, and if you have a radical reinterpretation you’d like to share, please do. We have an expert team of tasters and testers assembled, and the winner of the taco taste test (good stories help, too) will be featured in our Eat Real taco box, on our website, and in our newsletter. Read more

Farm City: Gardening In The Ghetto

If you liked Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, my guess is that you will love Novella Carpenter’s new book, Farm City: The Education of An Urban Farmer. I found it to be both grittier and funnier than Kingsolver’s book and even easier to read.

The book chronicles Carpenter’s somewhat unintentional experience of creating a “squat garden” in the vacant lot next to her apartment building in Ghosttown, which is what she and the other residents call their rundown neighborhood located near downtown Oakland. Read more