Food, People, Power: New Healthy Food Co-op Opens in Oakland

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What do you do if you find yourself in the middle of an urban healthy-food desert? Look for an oasis for sustenance. Oakland may be on the list of the top 10 Greenest Cities, but certain areas like West Oakland are nearly bereft of healthy, local food, which is an important element of sustainability. Fortunately, an oasis has just appeared in West Oakland in the form of a worker-owned grocery store with a focus on healthy, organic, local food and community.

Mandela Foods Cooperative finally opened its doors a few weeks ago and I was there to help celebrate. A project that has been many years in the making, Mandela made locals headlines this spring in anticipation of its opening because of its importance in the community.

2009 014Located on 7th Street across from West Oakland Bart, Mandela Foods Cooperative is worker-owned and operated. It is comparatively small, but packed with items such as fresh, organic produce, bulk cereals, dried fruit, and nuts, and a few shelves of canned goods. Its beef and lamb are grass fed, antibiotic free, and sourced from local family farms. The chicken is free range, vegetarian fed, and raised without hormones. Produce and meat are sourced from a variety of Northern California farms.

Mandela is also working with Planting Justice, an urban agriculture/food justice project founded by Gavin Raders and Haleh Zandi, who donated starter vegetable plants. Later in the season, they will have fresh produce available.

I went early Saturday morning to catch the grand opening. Prior to the cutting of the ribbon by one of the worker-owners, a blessing was given by an imam/minister who invoked the spirit of the Creator and the community to sustain the food collective and referred to Adam as the original gardener. Councilwoman Nancy Nadel of Oakland District #3 was also there to support the store opening.2009 019

It was an exciting event and resource for the residents of West Oakland. I will be supporting Mandela whenever I am in that neck of the woods, er, I mean city.

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  1. Cyndy Abbott

    I would like to see these grassroot efforts taking place in the smaller communities as well. The key to their success is the fact that each individual has a vested, equal interest in the project. Any part, even a very small part of a community working together to express the need for support of local, sustainable resouces can only lead to the betterment of the lives of many. This is how the world is changed.
    As an aside, I would like to comment on this type of news. I need more news of this type, good news instead of the gloom and doom that has become the norm and where nothing changes. If the local and national media could/would shift the concentration to the progress that is being made, I believe that we would see a speedier advancement for workable sustainable opportunities.

  2. Dare

    My question is who verifies how green or organic these foods are? Sustainability is a good thing but I hope we are not being deceived into buying some foods grown with the same old ways and be labels as “organic.”

  3. haleh

    I have shopped at mandela marketplace a few times now, and every time is a blessing! super healthy, affordable (best prices for organic i’ve ever seen, which is a major class/race issue at other organic stores), and friendly! nice coverage ryan!

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