Castlemont High School is located in one of the most violent neighborhoods in Oakland. In a 7 month span in 2013 the Oakland Police Department averaged 3 shootings per day within a 1.5 mile radius of the campus, including one where bullets pierced the front door of the high school. Residents in the area surrounding the school have a life expectancy that is ten years less than their neighbors in the Oakland Hills over a mile away . In addition to dodging bullets children here carry the burden of a lifetime of nutrition related diseases due to the lack of access to healthy foods. On the first Saturday of every month the non-profit organization Mandela MarketPlace arranges a community produce stand to combat one of the many disadvantages that these residents face. From 12 to 3 pm affordable produce is sold alongside knitted goods and jewelry. Castlemont Community Market is one of four locations in Oakland where produce stands are set up to provide residents with access to farm fresh produce and wholesome basic staples. Mandela MarketPlace is striving to combat food inequity and the increase of diet related diseases in the inner city by fostering food secure neighborhoods. Mandela Foods Distribution, the produce supplier, is able to sell the produce at affordable costs by working with under-resourced farmers who lack accessibility to mainstream distribution channels. Stephanie Radbill, Mandela MarketPlace’s Healthy Retail Coordinator, explained that the farmers are primarily based out of Hollister and Watsonville and the produce is all locally grown. The farms financially benefit by gaining an alternative distribution network that connects them directly to Oakland’s urban retail base . Although the Castlemont Community Market is located in East Oakland, Mandela MarketPlace is based in West Oakland across from the West Oakland Bart Station at on 7th Street. A block away from the Mandela MarketPlace Headquarters is Mandela Foods Cooperative a small grocery store and Café, another component the organization uses to close the large health gaps in the community. Mandela Foods is the only grocery store for West Oakland’s 25,000 residents . The over fifty liquor stores that permeate the area and fast food restaurants are the main source of food, making highly processed foods readily available and affordable. The store increases access to nutritious foods, provides health education and employment opportunities and the café located within provides yet another healthier food option. The grocery store and produce stands are just a small piece of Mandela MarketPlace’s outreach strategy to decrease the disparities in food accessibility. The small produce stand that is organized once a month on the Castlemont High School campus serves as a beacon of hope for the movement in Oakland to increase nutrition education and healthy food accessibility, combatting the food desert epidemic.
Additional Community Produce Stands:
◦ North Oakland Senior Center (Wednesdays 10:30-1:30)
◦ West Oakland Health Center (Thursdays 12-2)
◦ Cesar Chavez Elemetary (Thursdays 8-10)