Uprooting Food Injustice in West Oakland
Posted May 2016
In West Oakland, California, residents who want healthy food must work hard to get it. Not only is fresh produce cost-prohibitive for most residents, as 36% of West Oakland residents live below the poverty line, but it’s also hard to find. Grocery stores are few and far between, so cheap and easy fast-food has become the norm, and the community is suffering.
Food inaccessibility is a major problem in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 23.5 million people live in food deserts, defined as areas with low incomes and extremely low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. Consequences manifest in issues like diabetes, cancer, and obesity-related illnesses.
For the last 15 years City Slicker Farms has been tackling food accessibility head on in West Oakland. At the organization’s core is the belief that involving the community in food production will not only inspire them to seek out healthy alternatives, but will also equip people with the tools they need to access them.
City Slicker works toward its mission in three primary ways.
The Garden Program installs garden boxes in the backyards of community centers and homes where residents are eager to grow their own food. Team members provide continued support to make sure their gardens are productive.
The Urban Farming Education Program teaches families and youth how to grow their own food and cook nutritious meals, and it provides jobs for youth at various urban farm sites. The urban farms are places where community members gather, grow food from scratch, and learn to value and seek out a healthy lifestyle.
The Community Market Farms Program takes unused land around the community and turns it into fertile organic gardens. The produce grown there is sold back to community at prices on a sliding scale. Customers pay whatever they can afford, or can even trade what they grow in their own backyards.
In June 2016, a new chapter begins for the West Oakland community as City Slicker Farms opens the gates of its new location, the West Oakland Farm Park. The 1.4-acre space is bigger than its other locations—but more importantly, it’s the first lot that the organization actually owns. With an orchard, crop fields, garden beds, a green house, workshops, and a playground, the Farm Park is fully equipped to engage the community and redefine West Oakland’s relationship with healthy food.