Produced by Sofia Sanchez Pillot Saavedra Fall 2018
The project I worked on for the Food Systems Capstone Course was a short 10-minute film in collaboration with the FRESH food pantry at Chabot College. When I was a student at Chabot Community College, I came across a class called Passion and Purpose, which focused on student’s passions and ways to leverage that passion into initiatives and projects. In my time at Chabot, I realized I was passionate about the environment, food issues and the wider community of Hayward, and found that a Food pantry was a resource highly needed on campus. With a group of students, faculty and staff at Chabot, the FRESH food pantry came to fruition and by the time I transferred to UC Berkeley, the project had taken off with its first pop-up event in May of 2017. To this day, the pantry has served over 7000 people. FRESH has also started distributing clothing and is planning on expanding to hygiene products as well as school materials. The energy around this project was incredibly humbling, and it left me with the urge to document it into a short film that could be shared to raise awareness and inspire anyone interested in issues surrounding food insecurity and student collaboration.
My time at Terramino was quite a journey that I am extremely blessed to have gone through. I was able to take a peek at a startup company that was started by UC Berkeley alumni and how their process of starting a company as long as their hiring component took place. When I joined Terramino, their company was still relatively new just as their were moving from a collaborative space with other companies to their own space in San Leandro. I was excited to be there as they were beginning their journey on their own and I was more than willing to help with anything they needed.
For the food systems capstone course project, I collaborated with Mothers to Mothers, an organization focused on defining and obtaining postpartum justice for parents of all races, genders, cultures, and identities. The group has a website used for discussing their ideas, concept, events, classroom lectures, resources, and media outreach. I played a part in redesigning and offering new resources and updates to that website so visitors would have a fresh look the project based on current semester goals.
My community engagement project involved work with DoorDash in order to launch a pilot program, Kitchens Without Borders, that would aid immigrant and refugee restaurant owners to provide customers with free delivery. The idea for the program was born in an internal hackathon at DoorDash and the company decided to include it in their corporate social responsibility initiatives (CSR). Essentially, the program would partner with local non-profits working with immigrants and refugees in the food system. Together with corporate funds, these partnerships would enable DoorDash to pay the delivery fee for selected participating merchants, which, according to internal data,boosts sales from 50-200 percent. When I was contacted to work with them on launching this program, I knew I had to be a part of it.
The overarching theme that has permeated my internship this semester has been that of connection. I have spent almost three months working and learning at the UC Gill Tract Community Farm in Albany, California. Not only have I learned actual skills and techniques for farming on an urban farm, but I have also learned a lot about myself, and my food system. Far too often in today’s society, we have no idea where our food comes from, who grows and harvests it, and how it gets to us… Most of us are completely disconnected from our food system. Prior to my internship at Gill Tract, I too was rather disconnected from the food system.
We lie deeply embedded in a consumerist society which continues to serve injustices on every plate. People throughout the system– from producer to consumer– are treated unfairly by the capitalist marketplace. Institutionally, sustainable production practices are disincentivized, and for a significant group of people, a healthy diet is unattainable. From the classroom, I have learned that the modern food system creates inequity and does not account for the disparities it creates. However, I have found that the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets are a unique hiding place within this system for a range of consumers who seek and support healthy, local food, and for producers who grow with a holistic mindset.
As farms across the US continue industrializing and consolidating, populations of small farmers face drastic declines. Their farming knowledge, which tends to be much more sustainable and ecologically sound, disappears with them. This semester I worked with First Generation Farmers (FGF), an organization based on a small farm in Brentwood, California, which actively helps foster the next generation of farmers by recruiting new farmers and instructing them in organic and agroecological methods.
As I conclude my semester interning with the Berkeley Unified Gardening and Cooking Program, I am sad to see it ending. I’ve loved being in the world of elementary school, especially in the garden; it’s been wonderful to forget the stresses of being a full time UC Berkeley student in favor of hunting down cabbage eating inchworms, dressing up as a scarecrow to walk in the Halloween parade, and getting my hands in the dirt with twenty or so willing participants at a time. My Mondays and Wednesdays the past four months have been sweetened by kids’ laughter, monarch butterflies, and the feet stomping excitement that comes with the announcement of that week’s “Garden Snack.”
In the summer, my project consisted of researching and developing a rooftop garden that intersects urban agriculture practices with technological systems (and other engineering/design aspects). The La Loma Rooftop Garden will increase accessibility and production of healthy foods, while providing a place for meditation and yoga. This summer, I worked behind the scenes, learning about engineering systems for rooftop food production. I will start doing more construction within the next couple weeks with the Hispanic Engineers and Scientists (HES) team. The objectives for the Fall 2018 are to educate and provide HES active members with research and hands-on experiences in team-oriented projects.
This summer, I had the pleasure of conducting food systems research at the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) in Berkeley, California. Housed within the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and National Resources, NPI is an organization that conducts and evaluates research on the influence of nutrition on public health. This post describes some of the major projects I have been working on over the past months.
Agricultural research and production is commonly grounded in one scientific knowledge base, the Western. However, there are other valid forms of knowledge in the world offering salient techniques and perspectives. Indigenous science (IS), the transmission of ecological knowledge in Indigenous communities across generations, is example of another form of knowledge that should be honored and looked to for answers for present day agricultural issues.
If we want all students to reach the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (self-actualization), how can we expect them to achieve this without meeting the lowest level of the hierarchy (basic physiological needs)? In California, 20 percent of K-12 students are in poverty and 21 percent are food insecure. I have been an education policy nerd for years; in high school, I loved immersing myself in student government, leadership roles in my school district, and working with statewide educational non-profits. Through my food systems engagement project, I wanted to channel my longtime passion for education with my newfound passion for food justice. I delved into studying what programs and policies exist to ensure a students’ access to food with support from the Berkeley Food Institute.
“The future of protein is fungi”… is Terramino Foods’ catchphrase. They’re proving it true. Terramino’s goal is to create a sustainable alternative to seafood using a nutrient-dense and texturally comparable fungi. Why? Because classic seafood production is plagued by a host of environmental problems.
The students of Experiential Learning through Food Systems do impactful and thought-provoking work. This semester, I had the honor of working on a project that will help share their stories and hopefully inspire others. The most digestible way to do this was as a series of short videos.
I wanted this garden to speak to the importance of issues surrounding homelessness, food insecurity, urban green space, and sustainable agriculture. I am incredibly proud of the efforts of everyone of People’s Park and my friends who came out to volunteer; this project could not have come to fruition without them. I was inspired by the original movement in the 60s to build a park by just the will and labor of the community, and hoped to emulate the values of past activists in my project. In turn, I hope that my garden inspires people to see the value and beauty of the park and to advocate for its protection as it faces threats of destruction once again.
This semester I interned with Berkeley Unified School District at Malcolm X Elementary in the school garden. Everyday that I went into the garden, I got showered with children, plants, and food. The entire experience was so absolutely positive and I want to share one of my final days in the garden with you. One of my personal goals for this project was to effectively communicate complex science in a simple manner to young students. Upon discussing this with the garden teacher Rivka, she suggested that I design a lesson plan about leguminous nitrogen fixation. The third graders planted a crop of fava beans in the fall, so this felt like the perfect opportunity to connect with that experience and talk about soil health.
My semester’s journey with food has shown me ways I can continue creating positive impacts for the larger campus community. In the recent months, I have been facilitating a student-lead food justice class at UC Berkeley as well as working as an intern for the Basic Needs Security Team. Working on two different projects has exposed me to levels in the food systems I have never seen before. In seeing the interconnected parts of the campus foodways first-hand, my gratitude for the volunteers, workers, and families involved in this truly world-wide network grew stronger. Most importantly, this semester’s journey with food has taught me about the power of community and how our connection to each other is the only way we can combat the oppressive food systems we live in today.
Middle school is an interesting age, where students are discovering themselves and their love of food systems. Although they may not express that love directly, having a Garden and Nutrition Program to give access to essential information at such a formative age is necessary and important. Working at Longfellow Middle School was an amazing experience. This unique internship stems from a partnership between the Berkeley Food Institute and the Berkeley Unified School District to connect UC Berkeley students to intern for either garden based learning, nutrition instruction, or both, as was my case in elementary and middle schools. The teacher that I worked with, Ellen McClure, was in charge of both the school’s gardens and teaching the nutrition classes, which gave our program a nice balance to bring in some of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that we grew into the classroom to incorporate into our recipes.
Terramino Foods is a new startup company developing a fish-free alternative to seafood made from fungi. Founders Kim and Josh, both recent graduates of UC Berkeley, have invented a fermentation-based process for transforming fungi into a product that mimics the taste and texture of fish. So far, the company has developed a convincing salmon burger, is working on a salmon fillet, and intends to expand to other types of seafood in the future. Terramino products not only have the flavor and mouthfeel of fish, but are also nutritionally comparable. The fungi used is rich in bioavailable proteins and packed with Omega-3 fatty acids. However, unlike real fish, producing fungi requires a small fraction of the resources used for fishing or aquaculture. Kim and Josh hope that their company can reduce the environmental burden of the seafood industry by offering a fish alternative that is more sustainable and affordable, while also being delicious enough to satisfy the cravings of seafood lovers.
When I chose to add a minor in food systems to my degree in Society and Environment, I thought it would be a great way to stay as closely connected to the nutritional studies field as I could. Initially, I didn’t think farming and food justice were really areas of study I would be interested in, since most of my classes were focused on nutrition in developing countries and human food practices, but I soon learned otherwise. Seeing as this minor required a certain amount of hours of work in the food systems field, I immediately began to think of how I could connect it with nutritional and scientific studies. Having heard a lot about research work opportunities throughout my time in academia, I was hoping to gain skills and a deeper understanding of what it really means to participate in such research studies. As some of you are surely familiar, finding and securing an opportunity to be part of research projects can be very challenging, and in my particular case, it took a lot of effort and time to land one.
The undergraduate Public Health program at U.C. Berkeley stresses that one’s environment is central to their health. Since being introduced to this concept, I’ve been eager to understand the interaction between place, resource availability, and the policies that make up the surrounding environment with the health of different members of a community. The field of public health argues that some members of a population are disproportionately affected by certain health outcomes, not because of innate differences between groups of people, but rather because of the underlying social determinants of health. The social determinants of health are the physical, economic, and social conditions in the environment in which people live, work, and play that affect health, such as job opportunities, residential segregation, public safety, access to quality education, and public transportation. Groups with particular vulnerability to poor health outcomes include the economically disadvantaged, racial and ethnic minorities, pregnant women, children, the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with chronic health conditions. Major goals in public health focus on closing the gaps in access to resources and reducing the unfair and avoidable health disparities between groups of people, which are defined as health inequities. Programs that work towards eliminating these differences ensure that every member of a community has the same potential to reach their optimal level of health.
For my community engagement project, I decided to to take on being a garden intern through the Berkeley Unified School District. I worked at Thousand Oaks Elementary School, and then halfway through I started to also intern at Oxford Elementary as well. When I first began working at Thousand Oaks, I thought to myself not only what I would get out of this experience, but also what positive impact I could leave with these students. With those thoughts, I didn’t know what my duties would actually include while being an intern.
Over the course of this semester, I had the privilege to intern with the nation’s oldest distributor of certified organic fruits and vegetables based in San Francisco, Veritable Vegetable (VV). VV distributes high quality organic produce to independent cooperatives, retailers, restaurants, schools, corporate campuses, and wholesalers. I worked under the Marketing Communications Manager at the company and assisted with tasks that dealt with promotion of the business and sales of products and services. My time at VV however was not limited to these tasks as I also had the opportunity to sit it on company meetings, participate in tours and volunteer events, and gain exposure to the many different departments of the company. While working at the company, I had the chance to learn more about the distribution side of the food system. The work that VV partakes in can be seen as the invisible efforts that take place in the food system. These distribution labors are hardly ever directly seen, making the efforts less thought of by customers as they purchase and consume produce. Interning at VV helped me better understand and appreciate the food distribution sector of the food system.
This spring I interned at Berkeley Unified Public School District’s Gardening and Cooking Program. I worked in the Cooking & Nutrition curriculum, which takes the form of after-school sessions; one part nutrition lesson, one part healthy hands-on cooking. I split my time between John Muir Elementary and Thousand Oaks Elementary, with kindergarten through third grade classes. After four months of “Can you go wash your hands again?” and, “Don’t yuck my yum,” here is the biggest lesson I have learned: Kids are powerful.
After spending a majority of my undergraduate career heavily involved in food systems work at both Berkeley and Hawai’i, it was a great pleasure to end my senior year weaving together and reflecting on my experiences through the Food Systems Capstone course. I took on a research assistant position in the Diversified Farming Systems Lab this past fall, working with Aidee Guzman, an ESPM PhD student conducting socio-ecological work in the Fresno area, and was lucky enough to be able to continue to do more work with Aidee this spring for my capstone project. The Diversified Farming Systems Lab commonly works on plant- pollinator interactions at the local and landscape level under the purview of Dr. Claire Kremen.
In the United States today, nearly 50% of all American adults have one or more diet-related chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.¹ People of color and low-income status make up a majority of this population due to a lack of access to healthy foods.³ Our current food policies pave the way for large-scale, pesticide-infused, fossil-fuel guzzling monoculture farms, factories, and corporations to thrive financially, while their consumers’ health plummets due to environmental and human health hazards. In addition, our industrialized food system illuminates the deeper racial and class-based structural inequalities that consume United States culture. In California alone, 4.9 million people face food insecurity, despite the state producing nearly 50% of the entire nation’s fruits and vegetables. 20.6% of California residents are poverty-stricken, the highest rate of poverty in the nation, and 24.2% of California adults are obese.² Food insecurity and obesity are often associated due to lack of access to fresh, healthy, and affordable foods, circling back to the overarching problem of inadequate food policies. This is a problem of both access and affordability; the former pertaining to inequalities in the distribution of grocery stores providing healthy food, and the latter in regards to governmental subsidies disproportionately given to corporate growers and food manufacturing companies. And this is where Fresh Approach comes in!
This semester I have been helping manage a research plot at the Oxford Tract with a group of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as UC Berkeley faculty. The research plot is being used to examine the effects of different urban farm soil management techniques, specifically no-till farming versus till farming and the utilization of cover crops versus no cover crops on soil characteristics and crop yield. The goal of the study is to produce tangible research results in a form that is accessible and useful to urban farmers, especially those residing in the East Bay.
For my community engagement project for the Food Systems Minor Capstone, I was a Marketing Intern for Back to the Roots (BTTR), a small company based in Oakland, CA that makes organic indoor gardening kits and is on a mission to reconnect people back to the food they eat through making it easy to grow themselves. Although the company is small, they have national distribution at some of the largest retailers including Target, The Home Depot, Whole Foods, and Amazon.
PANNA stands for Pesticide Action Network of North America. PANNA is part of an international organization working towards a sustainable future without hazardous pesticides. I was first drawn to PANNA because of the work they do around farmworker’s health and pesticides and schools. Their mission statement “Reclaiming the future of food and farming” attracted me to the organization because they are working with the community to achieve this future, while also serving those involved in the food system, not just focusing on “fixing” the problems within the system.
Community-engaged land-use planning at Smyth-Fernwald
I work as a student manager at the Clark Kerr Garden. This space is unique because it intersects many lives: from seniors in affordable-housing apartments, campus faculty, and preschoolers, to first-year college students and dining hall staff. This fall I decided to continue a project focused on a single tract of land next to Clark Kerr. In contrast to the space where I have been pruning trees, planting starts, and saving seed for the past three years, Smyth-Fernwald is a rather underutilized sloping plot with bordering oaks and an abandoned building. But the history of the land is fascinating. Just 4 years ago, there were faculty and their families living here, along with a daycare center and a small community garden. And in the early 1900s there were large gardens and an orchard. Before that, cattle grazed the open grassland. Even before that, the Chochenyo Ohlone inhabited the East Bay and likely utilized Derby Creek which runs along the northern border. In this same space that is now dusty and usually empty, we know there can be something productive and beneficial to the people, and restorative for the entire ecosystem.
For those who don’t already know what I did for my project, here’s the deal: in September I got the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI) newsletter that had a list of cool opportunities for students or graduates. I saw that Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) was taking applications for interns in the garden or nutrition departments, and I decided to apply. In high school I did my senior project (a highly involved and rigorous research paper and thorough presentation) on garden and nutrition education in elementary schools in America, so I was psyched to have this opportunity to engage directly with the topics I’d previously only researched! I applied on the spot and was accepted by Ellen at Longfellow Middle School as a garden intern.
ReGrained is a brilliant food waste company striving to reconfigure the way we use food and its byproducts. The idea came from a problem encountered while the cofounders, Dan Kurzrock and Jordan Schwartz, were still under aged college students at UCLA. They were not impressed by the beer at parties and were too young to buy craft beer so they decided to brew their own. Once the brewing process was complete, they were not only left with their delicious beer but a bunch of spent grains as well.
The leftover brewer’s malt can either be used as compost or sent to farms for animal feed in a more rural setting. As it turns out, this byproduct is more than just a grain that should be fed to cattle. The beer brewing process removes the sugar from the grain and leaves behind a grain rich in protein and fiber. When weighing out the grain, 35% of it can be attributed to fiber and 20% to protein. Combined with a few other ingredients, it makes for the perfect granola bar.
The room buzzed with fervent whispers, the inviting scent of fresh arepas wafting as attendees bustled through our Sweet & Salty night market – the lights dimmed as our first storyteller stepped on stage, graciously inviting us into their world. Sharing the challenges and triumphs of their personal journey in the foodspace, each storyteller brought a different flavor to the evening, creating a feast of stories for us all to indulge in. The level of transparency, honesty, and vulnerability displayed fostered intimacy within a group of strangers — a transient experience with a depth of influence, these connections were what so many long for amidst the anonymity of modern society.
We often think of chocolate as a symbol of love, indulgence, and celebration rather than one of suffering and destruction. There’s a huge gap between how most big name chocolate companies market their products to us and the circumstances of cacao production on the ground. I would venture to say that the vast majority of chocolate consumers in the world have no idea how their chocolate is made, let alone how its primary ingredients—cacao and sugar—are grown. Similarly, many cacao farmers never get to experience the final product into which the fruits of their labor are destined to be transformed.
On one of the last days of my internship, I was reloading the Freshest Cargo mobile farmers market truck to end the day when a woman came up to the back on the truck and asked for just one more bunch of kale. I walked back into the truck to pull out a bunch of kale from the built-in fridge, and when I returned, she was chatting with another woman, who then also asked me for a bunch of kale. Slightly annoyed this time, I went back again and brought out some more kale. Without much thought I continued packing up the boxes of greens and crates of oranges. The women were still standing there chatting, and I quickly realized that they were trading recipes on how to best cook with kale. That moment, though small, felt like the perfect culmination of the entire semesters worth of work– two people meeting and trading knowledge over food, forming a connection and learning from each other’s’ experiences.
After spending the better part of my four years at Cal learning about environmental politics and food systems, I was excited to put my knowledge to use at a nonprofit working to create and sustain community gardens in Los Angeles (LA). The LA Community Garden Council (LACGC) is a very small nonprofit run by a handful of paid employees with support from a wider network of local board members with ties to various organizations such as the LA Food Policy Council. I worked with Julie, the executive director, Diana, the executive assistant, Al, the outreach director, and my fellow intern, Arissa. LACGC manages forty community gardens in LA and consults with more than 125 community gardens in the LA county. Many of the gardens they manage started out as abandoned concrete lots. With the help of LACGC, local residents worked to convert these plots into gardens where communities of diverse backgrounds come together under the LA sunshine to bond over their mutual love of gardening and grow nutritious and accessible food. During my internship, I learned about individual community gardens and the things that make them unique, but I also learned about the struggles these gardens will encounter in the face of the proposed LADWP water rate hike.
Over the course of three years at the Berkeley Student Collective, from storefront all the way to director, I’ve witness its growth and change in structure, operation, and membership. Initially, I wanted to investigate questions like what do customers look for in store, how does our product selection reflect that, and is there a discrepancy between who we think we’re serving and who we are actually serving? However, I quickly realized that there is no usable data that I could build my research on. Thus, my project changed from investigating the interaction between our customers and products to identifying who are the people who frequent BSFC.
The Food Pantry is relatively new to the university and there are still many that do not know about it. I personally did not know about it until my second semester of my third year even though it was located in the basement of my workplace, which I have been working for almost a year. The Food Pantry is a collection of humble efforts and altruistic and kind students who volunteer their own time and efforts to help others.
The Food Pantry also provides food at no cost for students who are food insecure. Once I got involved with the Food Pantry, I was given a project to lead and at the beginning, I was extremely cautious and overwhelmed by the amount of pressure. Yet, what I learned was that if you have the inspiration and the effort, just jump right in and everything will work out fine and beautifully.
If someone told you that they could solve the problems of the world, would you believe them? In many ways, this is the question I tried, and am still trying to answer this semester during my internship at MESA.
MESA, or the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture, is an organization that seeks to change the current food system by putting people over profit, leading the way through Earth Stewardship, equitable economies, and multicultural alliances worldwide. After twenty years in existence, MESA was interested in learning not just what the organization was doing, but also and more importantly, if and how their work impacted the lives of farmers and communities.
It is with great sadness and the inexplicable feeling of losing a limb (in a way), that I write this farewell blog post about the Food Collective. The Food Collective, my home for three years, my first venture into campus life, the first time I was given real responsibility for a legitimate business, the first time I met people who cared about the environmental and social consequences of our food system, all are coming to an end. However, it is with great excitement, that I make my next move in the world of food with all of the knowledge I have acquired in the hallowed (and sticker-coated walls) of the Food Collective.
I started this minor at the beginning of my transfer to Cal. I knew I wanted to work making changes in the food system but wasn’t quite sure in what capacity. My passion was ignited in wanting to help people have access to fresh, healthy food, especially those who are marginalized and often face food insecurity and diet related illnesses disproportionately to others. I studied the food system from many angles–public policy, sociology, and agro-ecological farming practices and each class made the same point over and over: our current food system is broken and it does not serve everyone equally, and yet I wanted to know how do we fix it?
Real Food Media uses powerful storytelling and media to inspire, educate, and grow the movement for sustainable food and farming. My draw to Real Food Media began when I attended their film contest screening at Berkeley last year. After watching a series of short films that promoted a sustainable food system, which ranged from topics of urban gardens to fair trade, I felt so inspired to go out and make an impact on our food system. I began an internship with Real Food Media last summer, and was able to pick the internship back up again this semester through the Community Engagement Project.
The process of storytelling is a truly extraordinary experience. Sharing past knowledge through spoken word has been a tradition that has existed in human culture for centuries. We tell stories of the past to our children and peers to preserve the legacy how we saw and experienced the world — and in some unique cases-how we tried to make it a better place.
The day that Lucia (my boss) and I interviewed longtime-resident Barbara Fenech in San Francisco’s Portola District was perhaps the most enriching experience during my internship with The Greenhouse Project San Francisco. Just a few weeks ago we had been searching for Barbara at the grand opening of the Portola’s Grocery Outlet, where free tacos were given out with proof of purchase of something from inside the store. It was curious to observe a pair of elderly Chinese women eating tacos, unsure of how to tackle them but still trying their best anyways. People from around the neighborhood actually knew each other; it was such a stark difference from my own neighborhood in San Jose, where I’m used to seeing new people every day.
This past semester I was fortunate enough to work with the Basic Needs Team at Cal that strives to bring awareness to the issues of food insecurity, housing insecurity, and financial aid across all UC campuses. My specific work was dedicated to food and housing insecurity and was split up with across two organizations: The Food Pantry and the Curriculum & Programming Team. Throughout the semester my knowledge of these topics expanded and I had the opportunity to practice spreading awareness and volunteering for the cause.
Prior to working with Acta Non Verba, my understanding of the food system was shaped by classroom knowledge, reading, others’ experiences, and my own observations in the communities I consider my own. Capturing food systems through reading is a very difficult challenge and divider when it comes to experiencing real life situations. You can explain what it means to love, but until you have felt it yourself, you are stuck with this definition of what love means in someone else’s eyes. What shapes us as beings is unique to what we experience. Just like our image of love is my image of the food system. I was told on several accounts what the food system looks like, the definitions and facts I was taught were all I knew. And as true as they were, it all sunk in when I was able to put words to a picture during my time at Acta Non Verba. “Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project (ANV) elevates life in the inner city by challenging oppressive dynamics and environments through urban farming.” Located in the City of Oakland’s Tassafaranga Park, the quarter acre grows more than plants, and I was fortunate to witness the selflessness that sprouts from ANV and opens up a world of fresh grown food and interactive gardening for the children in the inner city. Children shape the food system because they are the future generation, and that is why we must emphasize what is available for them to fuel their bodies.
You can simply stop participating in a system that abuses animals or poisons the water or squanders jet fuel flying asparagus around the world. You can vote with your fork, in other words, and you can do it three times a day.
– Michael Pollan
This ideal of consumerism that Michael Pollan espouses in his New York Times article “Voting with Your Fork” and in pretty much all of his writings, is probably not new to most people reading this blog post. It is the basis of the current mainstream food movement. The burden is placed on individuals to change their purchasing habits or else they are voting for exploitation and pollution three times a day. These ideas have manifested in the popularity of the organic, cage-free, humane, local, etc. labels that crowd supermarket shelves, and the success of restaurants like Chez Panisse.
Starting from the bottom up is difficult for anything, but it’s especially difficult when there is no obvious trajectory. You have to make your own path as you attempt to follow the footsteps of others, trying to learn from others’ mistakes and instead learning from your own. Unfamiliar territory plagued my whole journey of creating a proposal for the garden, and although I began apprehensively, I pushed forward confidently in the end.
At the very beginning of this semester, I decided to take on a project I knew nothing about. I thought it would help me get some experience in the workings of local government. The project was to create a proposal for a new community garden in North Berkeley, a collaboration with UC Berkeley via Professor Altieri and the City of Berkeley via the office of councilmember – and now mayor elect – Jesse Arreguin. My job was to assess the need and want for a garden in the community. I originally thought I would just do a simple survey of the community and maybe a public forum for community discussion. I didn’t realize how much research would actually go into it, such as surveying, comparing grocery stores, evaluating income disparities, interviewing other community gardens, and more.
I have spent the past semester working with HOPE Collaborative, “a community collaborative working to support community-driven, environmental changes which will reduce health inequities within the most vulnerable communities of the Oakland flatlands.” I worked most closely with HOPE’s Healthy Corner Store Project (HCSP), which works with local corner stores to increase the availability of healthy and affordable foods in parts of Oakland where there is limited access to grocery stores. Currently, there are two stores in the program, One Stop at International Blvd. and 84th Ave. and Three Amigos at Foothill Blvd. and 13th Ave. However, the project had a third store until September and is currently seeking additional corner stores to partner with. HOPE helps storeowners with financing, job training, community outreach, and renovations. For example, we had a workday at Three Amigos to help clean, reorganize, and set up a new deli so the store can serve sandwiches and other fresh prepared foods.