Our mission is to ‘Undo’ the food. We want to reconnect families and especially their kids back to where the food comes from.
–Back To The Roots Family
Summer 2016 is going to be one of the most special and memorable summer in my life. Partially because I had my first full-time internship, but mostly because I got a chance to do things that I have been really passion about.
Right after my last final, I started my product development internship at Back to the Roots (BTTR). As many of you may have heard of, BTTR is a food startup with “undoing” food as their mission. They truly believe that the simplest food is the healthiest one for our body and transparency is one of the main feature that makes BTTR unique and standout.
With the opening retreat at the Student Organic Garden Association on May 23rd, 2016, my summer community project has only gotten better. As a continuation of my previous internship at Project Open Hand in Oakland, I’ve been able to dedicate more time to this non-profit organization and their new CHEFS (Changing Health through Food Support) study, beginning in August, 2016. Project Open Hand is dedicated to serving the Alameda Community with groceries and meal services. Our main clients have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS or breast cancer. (See below for a percentage breakdown of most common client illnesses). Our HIV funding comes from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and our breast cancer funding comes from Avon. The past couple of months has taken my position from basic clientele intake and grocery shopping to an all inclusive position to prepare for this upcoming study for the benefit of our community’s current and future health.
I was inspired to work with the farm at the Alameda Point Collaborative after I spoke with the manager of the farm about the APC’s mission and how work on the farm is making a difference in the community. The Alameda Point Collaborative is an organization which provides transitional housing and resources to formerly homeless individuals and families and the farm is one of the several sites for a job training program that is offered to residents. Participants in this job training program learn valuable job skills through their work on the farm. However, the program did not offer any sort of discussion of the broader societal structures that contribute to the inequities that often contribute to homelessness. This was particularly concerning to me as it was to the manager, but she explained that the program did not have the resources to add this element to the existing program. I was motivated to aid with the incorporation of this element and as the program was located on a farm, I was inspired to structure this element around the theme of food justice. With permission from farm administrators, I began reaching out to local organizations working in food justice to help create a food justice curriculum that could be worked into the job training program. This process has been lengthy and is still not yet complete but I have been successful in finding an organization that is willing to collaborate with me and we will likely have a product within the coming weeks!
Hope Collaborative works to support community-driven, environmental changes which will reduce health inequities within vulnerable areas in Oakland.
The project that I was most closely involved with during my time at Hope Collaborative is the Healthy Corner Store Project, which directly addresses the food system. This project supports the expansion and improvement of local small grocers in an effort to increase availability of nutritious, affordable food and improve the environment in Oakland. We connect the corner stores with financing, technical assistance and community support so that they can increase their provision of fresh and healthy food options. I am so excited that we have begun to pilot 3 store makeovers at The Three Amigos, Sunbeam and One Stop!
The Berkeley Student Food Collective (BSFC) is a student- and volunteer-run grocery store on Bancroft, across the street from Eshleman Hall. It’s been criticized for being so white that it excludes people of color. Since its mission claims it’s equitable and since it’s incorporated as an educational non-profit, by not providing education about its role in exclusion, it is failing its mission and perpetuating inequities. Grace Lihn, a UC Berkeley undergarduate, puts it best in her SERC blog post, An Open Letter to the Food Collective, “…[the BSFC’s] complacency and inaction reinforce existing privilege and oppression.” As a participant in the Food Systems minor and the corresponding community engagement class, my project was to use my privilege as the Anti-Oppression committee (AOcomm) coordinator for the BSFC to make the space inclusive; however, I’ve only begun to understand how.
Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project, located in the midst of the East Oakland urban sprawl, works toward elevating life in the inner-city by challenging oppressive dynamics and environments through urban farming. Nestled in a .25 acre corner of Tassafaronga Park lives Acta’s certified-organic urban farm that is planned, planted and harvested by the neighboring youth in the area. Across the street from the farm is Acta’s office where members of the organization host cooking classes and provide an accessible food pantry for the residences of Tassafaronga Village Apartments.