Mandela Marketplace

Believing in empowerment of community and self, cooperative work, wealth, and responsibility, Mandela Marketplace is a community driven life force.

“Mandela MarketPlace is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with local residents, family farmers, and community-based businesses to improve health, create wealth, and build assets through cooperative food enterprises in low income communities. This marketplace empowers the community by working cooperatively with its residents to provide sustainable resources of food.”

Its approach is built on community organizing, education, business cultivation, and the support of community members to address issues of economic disinvestment, food security and health inequity. Its goal is to be a thriving food hub.

With various branches that work in tandem to support a whole, its branches come together to make up an efficient and accessible food supplying system. Its branches include: Mandela Foods Cooperative, Mandela Foods Distribution, Zella’s Soulful Kitchen, Ladder Up Financing, The Healthy Neighborhood Store Alliance, Community Produce Stands, Ashland Cherryland Initiatives and other projects.

Mandela Foods Cooperative is a worker-owned, full-service retail grocery store and nutrition education center in West Oakland that fosters economic empowerment and community health. Seeking to benefit the neighborhood, residents, employees, commuters and local farmers, its aim is to catalyze a local food economy within the inner city.

The Mandela Foods Distribution supports under-resourced, local farmers by establishing an alternative distribution network that passes on wholesale prices to neighborhood stores and other community based businesses. The produce purchased by Mandela is from local family farms that use sustainable practices. 40% of the produce comes to Mandela through these means. Like many family farms, these local farms don’t have access to mainstream distribution channels and the ability to market their produce. Mandela Foods Distribution provides these channels and access.

Zella’s Soulful Kitchen is a locally-owned Cafe inside Mandela Foods Cooperative focusing on fresh and healthful food, embraced in southern comfort.

Ladder Up Financing provides access to credit to food retailers, value-added producers, local growers, and food distributors targeting food-enterprises serving and/or located in low-income communities. Through a network of online lenders, Mandela has been able to endorse $15,700 in loans with a 100% repayment rate to community entrepreneurs. In 2013, they entered into a partnership with FarmLink, a non-profit lender that connects farmers to land and financing. Leveraging a $25,000 loan-reserve and a long history of partnership with local farmers, Mandela co-created a Harvest-to-Market product that makes $100,000 loan fund available to under-resourced farmers within the Mandela network. To date, we have lent $50,000 through this fund, ensuring adequate capital to support crop production and guaranteeing delivery of fresh, affordable produce to the Mandela Foods Distribution customers.

The Healthy Neighborhood Store Alliance is a produce delivery service that increases local access points for healthy food, making produce readily available in the places that community members frequent the most. Due to diet related diseases, Mandela wishes to provide a means toprovide access to fresh, affordable and healthy food. Through completely complimentary means, being a produce delivery service, providing nutrition education and assistance,

Mandela’s Healthy Neighborhood network encourages consumption of healthier foods.

Community Produce Stands community members are able to purchase farm fresh produce and wholesome basic staples at affordable prices in their neighborhood. Market stands are available weekly at senior centers, residential facilities and health centers. This provides farm fresh produce in a convenient, friendly and helpful atmosphere.

Cite this Page:

Danielle deGuzman Armstead, “Mandela Marketplace,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed October 22, 2018,

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