Change Through Food: Bringing an Oasis to the West Oakland Food Desert

Posted by Adele Peters

Until a few years ago, West Oakland had 53 liquor stores and no grocery stores at all. The nearest real supermarket, with a full produce section, was an hour's walk away. No surprise, then, that neighborhood local James Berk says in the video below that his diet used to consist of Fritos, Cheetos, and Doritos, and not much more.

But things are starting to change. Berk is now one of the co-owners of Mandela Foods Cooperative—a grocery store that brings healthy, local produce to the neighborhood, and even delivers healthy food to local corner stores. 

The co-op offers fresh produce carefully sourced from minority farmers in the Bay Area, along with some healthy packaged and ready-to-eat food. The owners saw a need for more access to fruits and vegetables than they could provide in one store, but rather than trying to build a second store themselves, they've partnered with local liquor stores to set up small produce stands inside. (In a further demonstration of their social responsibility, they even make the produce deliveries by bike). It's starting to become as easy to buy an apple as a candy bar in the neighborhood. 

This month, we're challenging the GOOD community to host a dinner party and cook a meal that contains fewer ingredients than the number of people on the guest list. Throughout March, we'll share ideas and resources for being more conscious about our food and food systems. Join the conversation at and on Twitter at #chewonit.


Original image screenshot from video