I often take for granted the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables we have in California, especially in the Bay Area. I rode this bus the other day and sat across two young kids (both about 6 years old) on their way to school eating a bag of flaming hot chips for breakfast. I couldn’t help but think they are not getting the right fuel for learning, especially for the most important meal of the day!
It reminded me of the time I spent with a wonderful group of people in August of 2013. For a week last summer, I had the good fortune of representing Alter Eco and participating in an amazing project, In Good Company’s 2013 West Oakland Project. In Good Company is an alliance of values-driven businesses supporting community solutions through week-long, hands-on projects focused on food, housing, and environmental restoration.
Why West Oakland? It is considered by many to be a “food desert.” West Oakland is a rectangular shaped neighborhood surrounded by 3 sides of freeways and one side of Port of Oakland. There are many environmental health challenges including highest rates of asthma in California. There are many liquor stores and very little access to fresh produce. City Slickers programs are an immediate solution to W. Oakland’s lack of real choice for fresh food. They turn underutilized urban landscapes into ones that provide healthy, affordable food. They have community markets, backyard gardens, and urban farming educational programs.
This West Oakland Project assisted City Slickers Farms and Just Fine design to help build structure for City Slickers. In this West Oakland 2013 project, IGC helped to build a vegetable washing station, a mobile woodshop, and an outdoor classroom. We also participated in community-based activities and learned what other great organizations are doing in the community.
The week was so fulfilling in many ways. We all set the goal to complete the three structures as a team, we cooked and cleaned together, we learned about each others’ companies and personal passion projects, and we laughed and sometimes cried together. We were able to meet people in the community who participate in City Slickers, and visit organizations in the neighborhood. I can say that magical week in August has brought me more than making new good friends and ease of using power tools.
A couple weeks ago, a few members of the Alter Eco and I went back to City Slickers and volunteered with Joseph in the Secret Garden. We sifted compost, planted spinach and kale, weeded, and helped fix a small fence. We are excited to continue working with this amazing organization, helping provide nutritious food to West Oakland residents. Thank you, In Good Company for igniting this spark within me and the Alter Eco team! We hope to continue to support City Slickers and their mission to help bring an immediate resolution to West Oakland’s lack of real choice for fresh, affordable, and healthy food.
~ Kathleen Guiang, Operations Coordinator