San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, located in the southeast corner of the city, was once a thriving Black community. Over the last several decades, the neighborhood has become a tragic example of what happens when communities of color are marginalized and experience institutional and structural racism. Concentrated poverty, environmental injustices, high rates of chronic diseases, and a lack of healthy food options are only a few of the injustices Bayview residents face on a daily basis.
Keith Cromartie, born and raised in the Bayview district, recognized these challenges and wanted to contribute to his community in a positive way, and therefore founded Food for Just-Us in 2013. In the Bayview, liquor stores and small corner stores are the most common shopping outlets, where there are limited produce options. At the neighborhood’s main supermarket it’s hard to find fresh food, and it often times smells of rotting meat. Keith’s decision to start the organization was cultivated by personal experiences and key moments in his life. Much of his inspiration comes from his mother, Kesha. After she was diagnosed with cancer he began researching how nutrition and food impacts individual health, and he recognized the role food plays in our physical well-being. Kesha also has her own organization, and she has provided Keith with the direction and guidance to get his organization started. Then, in 2012 Keith attended the Vallejo event, Survival Pending Transformation of Society. That was where he heard the former Chief of Staff of the Black Panther Party, David Hilliard, speak about his experiences as a young man in the 60s and 70s to foster self-determination among his community, and oppressed people around the world. It was that night that Keith made a public commitment to be of service to his Bayview community.
Food For Just-Us will be a CSA (community supported agriculture) program that also provides nutrition education, healthy recipes, and a sense of community. Keith believes that by partnering with local public schools and food banks it will help ensure that he’ll be reaching families and individuals who are most in need of the services Food For Just-Us will provide. The CSA program is unique in that boxes of food will be developed based on the needs of the people being served. School nutrition counselors, community-based organizations, and dietetic professionals will work closely with Food For Just-Us CSA members to develop appropriate diet plans and CSA boxes for specific illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma. His vision to improve the health and wellbeing of Bayview residents is not only about providing healthy food; it is about fostering a sense of ownership and control of the food system among residents. Food For Just-Us is committed to institutionalizing local and regional food systems, keeping food dollars in the local economy, and providing employment opportunities for Bayview residents. Ultimately, Keith sees Food For Just-Us as an avenue for establishing food sovereignty in the community so that residents have control over the affordability, accessibility, and quality of their food.