Thoughts on the Oakland Food System

5 August 2011

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By Victoria Endsley, CFJC Intern

From our offices in Oakland, it’s hard to really digest the scope of problems in our food system. I have been hesitant to discuss this system for some time as I recognize the complexity of the issues and the power of the partisan organizations involved. Yet, there is one thing that I think we should all agree on: the ability to eat every day should not be a privilege, but it is. Even in our own town, there are many people who struggle to eat every day and live in a state of perpetual struggle. Oakland is a city that is evolving, but still the food system remains broken.

With the influx of new funds for redevelopment in Oakland, many locals are starting to feel that their best interests aren’t being considered in the planning. I am also weary of this outside money because it reinforces feelings of segregation and oppression in these communities, and secondly, hasn’t provided many opportunities for the existing communities to financially benefit. Many people have noted that the redevelopment of Oakland has pushed poorer communities out, and to some extent that may be true, but the need to help who is left is still critical. This begs the question – how do you advance a community while not turning it into a different community? How do you maintain the essence of that community?

In contrast to this redevelopment approach, grassroots efforts can provide positive change for communities. In a grassroots movement, it’s not about policy initiatives or lofty ideals; it’s about making a difference. Even on the local level, it can be impossible to change legislation and this is where grass roots efforts can play a successful role by advocating for the community’s best interest. Local organizing groups want to take back Oakland to repair the broken system, yet it should be done authentically to help the people in the communities, and not just provide a new face to that community. With the liberty to do so, grass roots efforts may be the only way to do this.

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CFJC promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice. Through advocacy, organizing and education, we collaborate with community-based efforts to create a sustainable food supply. We envision a food system in which all activities, from farm to table, are equitable, healthful, regenerative and community-driven.

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