Watch How an Oakland Co-op Is Putting Produce Before Profits

Giving the community options for healthy food won’t make anyone rich, but it will enrich the community.

Many urban farmers markets now accept nutrition assistance programs like WIC and SNAP, but those weekly shopping opportunities aren’t as reliable as the brick-and-mortar markets that can help develop healthy habits. (Photo: ‘The Washington Post’/Getty Images)

Dec 29, 2014· 0 MIN READ
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is TakePart's News Editor.

In West Oakland, the struggle to bring fresh produce and healthy food to the local, low-income community is a high-stakes daily endeavor for the Mandela Marketplace. If they succeed, they are guaranteed to change and extend lives in the community where liquor stores and fast-food outlets outnumber places where you can buy fresh food.

In this video produced for PBS’ series The Victory Garden’s Edible Feast, we see how Mandela Marketplace’s owner and employees are working to change lives in the heart of a persistent food desert.

Since the sort of success they seek can’t be found on an accounting ledger, it will take time to achieve. But it’s worthwhile. In a 2012 study, researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Human Needs found that Oakland’s pockets of poverty are enmeshed in a dense web of problems that beget more problems.

Exposure to environmental hazards, lack of access to healthy foods, and a high density of liquor stores often occur in the same Oakland communities that are home to the highest crime, lowest educational attainment, and fewest economic opportunities.
To put it more simply, look to the words of the Mandela Marketplace’s namesake. In an interview in 1994, the former South African president explained: “Freedom is meaningless if people cannot put food in their stomachs, if they have no shelter, if illiteracy and disease continue to dog them.”