An Oasis in a Food Desert

Video: In West Oakland, a community cooperative is providing an alternative to fast food and packaged snacks.
Mandela MarketPlace video still

Video courtesy of Mandela MarketPlace.

In West Oakland, California, the only source of food used to be corner stores and fast food restaurants. "Being short of breath, the hazy vision and all that—it would come and go, but I never thought of it as a big thing. I thought that was just normal health," says Ennis, a West Oakland resident who now works with Mandela Marketplace, a cooperative that buys healthy food grown on regional farms and then distributes it throughout the community at affordable prices—both at the market itself and from corner stores, where a team of area youth delivers fresh produce by bicycle.

"The work that we do connects two populations that have traditionally been left out of the mainstream food system: small-scale minority farmers and urban markets like West Oakland," says Quinton, the programs director for Mandela MarketPlace.

"A lot of the things in our neighborhood we can't control," he points out. "There's substandard housing all around, there's environmental pollution all around. But at the end of the day, you select what you put in your body."


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  • In our increasingly consolidated food industry, the origins of what we eat are often hidden. How can you find out where your food is coming from?