Like many American cities, Oakland lacks adequate public transit and sufficient access to healthy food to nourish its large, ethnically diverse and substantially low-income population, of which about 50% are African American, 20% Latino, 20% White and 10% Asian. The People’s Grocery is one of a number of progressive healthy-living organizations have sprung up around the Bay Area in the last ten years with the intent of improving these conditions.
The People’s Grocery is literally a market on the move. It travels around residential Oakland three days a week, all year long, parking its distinctive red truck at senior centers, public schools, parks and community centers. In low-income neighborhoods where more traditional markets have not been able to sustain themselves, mobile markets can better serve large, home-bound populations of seniors and people with disabilities. Although PPS encourages markets to operate from a stationary location because market sites promote Placemaking and the use of public space, well-established farmers markets may consider developing a mobile market to better reach communities with poor access to fresh foods.
The People’s Grocery maintains an in-house garden that provides about 30% of the produce it sells. The other 70% is bought and picked up from a network of about 14 farmers and gardeners at nearby farmers markets. In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, the truck sells eggs, beans, dairy products, vitamins, soaps and packaged foods like healthy snacks.
The brightly colored truck is the People’s Grocery hallmark, but the organization is also known around the city for its youth programs and strong partnerships with prominent healthy living organizations. The West Oakland YMCA, for instance, is home to the People’s Grocery summer camp program. And the Rainbow Grocery Cooperative — another partner — runs the business side of the camp — a nine-week, intensive youth training program that introduces kids to cooking, nutrition education, communication techniques and hands-on business and urban agriculture lessons. In a short time, these partnerships have built up the reputation of the People’s Grocery as a grassroots organization that is making an substantial impact on Oakland’s food security.