I’m from Monterey Bay Area, which isn’t quite the same thing as the San Francisco Bay Area, but it’s pretty close and I’m familiar with the vicinity. I’ve known that West Oakland was a low-income area without a lot of resources – the average income in West Oakland is $20,000 less than the rest of Oakland – but I never realized that such a large portion of its residents live in what qualifies as a food desert. A food desert is a place without adequate access to food, usually do to a lack of grocery stores or the like in impoverished areas. That this is allowed to continue in an area that is one of the wealthiest in the country is absurd. The People’s Community Market strikes me as a great way to combat this and further the fight against food insecurity in the region.
A resource created by people in a community – to specifically serve the needs of that community – is one of the best possible ways to combat community problems that I can think of. There are often problems with well-meant interventions conducted by outsiders, due to a lack of understanding of the culture and people in that community.
For instance, when designing a store in a lower-income community, an owner may try to make the store appear as nice and high quality as possible. Some people, however, are likely to be discouraged by an expensive-looking store, even if the items inside are not costly. They may chose to not even go inside, impairing the stores ability to serve the community and stay afloat. This kind of design failure happens when someone with good intentions is not familiar with the people they are trying to help or does not do their research properly.
This means that interventions from within the community are the best way to combat issues because of their intimate knowledge of the people and customs. For instance, the creator of Peoples Community Market was doubtful of another, much more large-scale investor’s plan for a massive grocery store in Jack London mall because of its out of the way location and the fact that it doesn’t account for the very limited time many people in Oakland have to get food.
I’m hopeful about the potential for the People’s Community Market to help the residents of West Oakland and bring some much-needed resources to the food desert there.