Bringing Life to a Food Desert

Photo courtesy of People's Grocery

Photo courtesy of People’s Grocery

Over the past half century, West Oakland, just across the Bay from San Francisco, has faced the economic decline that has plagued many of America’s urban centers since World War II.  As populations and shopping have moved farther from urban centers, day-to-day survival in these areas have become more challenging and more costly. Today, many refer to West Oakland as a “food desert,” a place that is better known for its liquor and convenience stores than its supermarkets.

2008 study conducted by the Alameda County Public Health Department tells the story of decline.  In 1950 there were 140 traditional food stores, but by 2000, there were just a handful residents. Some of this perhaps was due to population decline, but much of it was due to economic decline.

How did a place that was once home to one of the nation’s largest middle-class African American communities and a bustling hub for San Francisco’s jazz and blues scene end up here? What are the factors that have contributed to West Oakland’s decline, particularly the decline of its food economy? And what are West Oakland residents doing today to increase their food access, against the odds?

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Kobanga Te

When we began the journey to adopt, we estimated that we would travel to pick up our son sometime this past summer. That was before a lot of things happened (head over to our private FB group to learn more).

As every month passes, we have eagerly looked forward to photo updates of our boy, who turned two in September. The weekend of Thanksgiving, we received an enormous treat when we got to Skype with Gabriel for the first time! Although the connection was poor, he was able to see and hear us clearly, and we were able to communicate to him how much we love him. That same day, he received two little buttons with photos of our faces and recorded messages from us to him. We learned later that he kept pressing the buttons over and over. He particularly liked the recording of Michael’s voice saying “Bilo, nazali Tata. Tata alingi yo. (Bilo, I am Daddy. Daddy loves you).

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