The Stonehurst Edible Garden

Stonehurst Edible Schoolyard Coordinator Suzanne Ludlum with a female kiwi vine. Photo: Debora Gordon/Oakland Voices

By Debora Gordon

Through the entrance to the Korematsu Discovery Academy and Esperanza Elementary School, and just off to the right, is the Stonehurst Edible Schoolyard. Suzanne Ludlum developed the project, and today she is the Garden Education Coordinator.

Suzanne describes the Edible Schoolyard as “an exciting and innovative collaboration between the City of Oakland’s Park and Recreation Department, OUSD, PUEBLO (People United for a Better Oakland), and All Ah We/All of Us,” a non-profit directed by Suzanne.

The garden, which is near 98th Ave. and San Leandro St. in East Oakland, serves as a living lab where kids and families learn how to raise fruits and vegetables, and revitalize ancestral knowledge about growing food.

The gardens provide very low-cost, organic, non-GMO food for a community that “is essentially is a food desert, in terms of affordable organics,” Suzanne says.

“There are not a lot food stores that sell organics, and I believe organics are really crucial for families because of the toxic nature of the pesticides we use to today.”

This is the basic garden layout, where mulch is used for soil remediation and water retention, and logs create paths and edges. Photo: Debora Gordon/Oakland Voices

Students and young people from 18-24 years old put the garden together. Most of them are current students at local high schools.

The community advocacy group People United for a Better Oakland (PUEBLO) is also an important part in maintaining the schoolyard. “There is a lot of love in this garden,” Suzanne explains.


The entire garden is 18000 square feet, and features perennials and natives that have been mostly donated by the Merritt College Horticulture Department.

Korematsu 3rd graders from the High Hopes Afterschool Program participate in the sheet mulching project. Photo: Debora Gordon/Oakland Voices

“The focus is on bringing beneficial insects to do all our pollination,” Suzanne says, “and to do integrated pest management. There are no pesticides used here at all.”

Korematsu and Esperanza students, sheet mulching. Photo: Debora Gordon/Oakland Voices

 Students have planted spinach, bok choy,  and arugula, as well as carrots, beets and kohlrabi. 

Parents can also buy fresh vegetables, such as 1.5 lbs fresh tomatoes for a half hour of work or they can buy tomatoes for a dollar a bag from Suzanne in front of the school when it closes.


Ultimately, Suzanne hopes to raise awareness of how to grow and eat healthy foods to students, and that they will pass that awareness onto their families and communities.

Sunflowers add beauty and color to the garden. Photo: Suzanne Ludlum

PHOTOS: Health of the Hood – Cleveland Heights

By Sabirah Mustafa

Cleveland Heights has a lot of natural beauty, but requires diligent maintenance. Otherwise, leaves back up storm drains, and tree branches block out street lights and sidewalks.

Blight and vandalism, while not extensive throughout the neighborhood, appear in pockets around the commercial areas.  The residential areas are generally well-maintained.


PHOTOS: Health of the Hood – Maxwell Park

Story & Photos By Katrina Davis

The things that make Maxwell Park unhealthy are few and far between, but there nonetheless. Recently a store promoting lower prices replaced a grocery store on MacArthur. Even though the prices are better, the quality of the food has also gone down.Sometimes if you aren’t careful you can pick up a batch of moldy strawberries, or in my case a slab of moldy cheese.

There’s also debris that can be found sometimes. It can range from small pieces of trash, or big things like mattresses, TV sets, dressers and other cast offs that people have decided they no longer want in their homes. The big debris can sometimes block the street and create a hazard for people walking around.

In nearby neighborhoods there are a few bars where every so often you can see people fighting out front. And there are fast food restaurants that serve unhealthy food.

 Another issue that my neighborhood has are stray animals. There are a lot of feral cats, and sometimes the more intimidating stray dogs walking unattended through the neighborhood. Unfortunately, with stray animals comes animal waste on the sidewalks and sometimes in yards.

In my neighborhood, and nearby neighborhoods, there are many things that you can find that keep it healthy. One of my favorite things about my neighborhood is that we continue to implement modern practices that help to keep the neighborhood thriving and up to date, while at the same time still practicing the old school methods of being a close knit community through different events throughout the year. Events like street festivals and community art shows.

A big thing I’ve noticed is the installment of bike routes and how more and more people are utilizing them. Which in turn helps people exercise and cuts air pollution.

We also have various mom and pop markets selling fresh fruits and vegetables, construction workers that continue to make much needed improvements to our streets, and a Yahoo! Group that keeps neighbors updated on things happening in the  in the area. It’s practically a cyber neighborhood watch. The group is also a space for people to share their opinions on  different things going on in Oakland.

There are the different types of gyms throughout the street. Having all these things in the same community helps to keep things close knit and continue to make the neighborhood a healthier place to live.










PHOTOS: Health of the Hood – Eastlake, Toxic & Under Construction

By Edward Cervantes

Lake Merritt has four main residential areas: the Lakeside Apartments District, in the area around Jackson and Madison Streets; Adams Point/Grand Lake, off Grand Avenue and behind the Grand Lake Theater; Haddon Hill/Cleveland Heights, off Lakeshore Avenue; and the area below 18th Street, on the southeast side of the Lake.

For my first ‘Health of the Hood’ piece, I wrote of 18th Street being a dividing line between a relatively affluent neighborhood and one that seems more depressed.

Since then, I’ve moved from the wealthier side, across the tracks.

Hidden behind the currently abandoned Kaiser Convention Center, the crumbly Oakland Unified School District headquarters, and in stark contrast to the luxurious condominiums at 1200 Lakeshore, blight is more common on this, the sometimes more odorous drain end of the Lake.

But it has been a focus of city funding and redevelopment efforts.  Along with the Lake Merritt BART Station Area Plan, work to open the Lake to the Estuary and Bay, and efforts to improve business opportunities along International Boulevard, Eastlake is also the site of the future Oakland Unified School District’s Downtown Educational Complex.

It’s also a space for toxic excavation and removal. Days after moving into the neighborhood, the Department of Toxic Substances Control sent a work notice informing us of the toxic removal that would begin on October 15, 2012.

For two months, I have been fascinated by the machinery and destruction. When home, I bring my camera out with me on every cigarette break so I can snap photos of the ongoing process.



Share Your Ideas: Building Apps for East Oakland Communities

By Howard Dyckoff

The idea is simple:  our lives are enmeshed in digital information and technology.  We use mobile phones and computers every day and the arcs of our lives are  recorded in the vertical silos of government data banks and the private silos of Facebook, Google, Twitter and other online service providers.

A developer team bangs out code for a new app at the 2011 Code For Oakland Hackathon. By Howard Dyckoff, Oakland Voices 2012.

Why not create applications to solve real problems, right here here in East Oakland?

That’s what community activists and tech heads will be doing this Saturday at Code For Oakland’s Hang Out and Hackathon.  And this year there will be discussion of how to keep the joint community and techie effort ongoing.

Attendance is basically free for community members and those who work for nonprofits.  Developers are only requested to make a small donation of $1 to $20 to help cover costs. Lunch is provided with lots of caffeine to get the coding done. And there will be prizes – rumor has it, $5000 worth.

The action starts at 8:30 Saturday morning in the Kaiser Center at 300 Lakeside Drive, facing Lake Merritt.   This is a comfortable space with sweeping views of the lake and a beautiful rooftop garden.

Learn more about this weekend’s Code For Oakland event by clicking here. You can click here to register. The event’s hashtag is #codeforoakland.

Developers will all be tackling this one essential question: what kind of cell phone-based application would make East Oakland a better place to live and work and play?

The organizers and sponsors of Saturday’s event are part of the emerging Open Data Movement which tries to create access to public data held by city, state and federal governments and also foundations and community groups.  These data can be used to find things and visualize what is happening in our neighborhoods.

There are data collections on which stores take food stamps, on income levels by neighborhood and census tract, on bus and BART schedules, on crime, on drug use, on HIV incidence.  Data miners are also interested in information about foreclosures, voting patterns and political contributions.

Pressure from the Open Data Movement is helping to make those figures open to the public, and soon we will all be able to search and visualize the numbers – information that belongs rightfully to the public.  Oaklanders can now begin to envision ways to combine and mashup that open data and make all of our lives better and help to build a better Oakland.

Bay Area News Group reporter Angela Woodall is imagining a phone app that finds fresh food outlets in East Oakland, lists which ones take food stamps or an EBT card, and also allows users to rate the locations listed.

Click here for a list of data sets now available to all of us.   What can you imagine doing with these?

If you have an idea for a small mobile phone or web application that could make your life better or your community better, then please consider coming down and sharing it with everyone.

You might find a team of developers who will make your idea a working reality!

At Code For Oakland’s debut event last year, teams broke out to turn concepts into real cell phone-based applications that would help improve the lives of Oakland residents. By Howard Dyckoff, Oakland Voices 2012.

The Code for Oakland organizers say this weekend’s hackathon is focused on “building apps, hacking public data and building tools to support economic development in Oakland, improve civic engagement, improve digital education and literacy in our residents and provide tools to attract and sustain local business in the town.”

At Code For Oakland’s debut event last year, $10,000 in prizes and federal sponsorship were awarded for the best applications.

Almost 100 developers and community members toiled together all day to build several applications. The winning mobile app, Txt2work,  was designed to help people reenter their communities and search and apply for jobs via their feature phone.

A second app, BettaStop (@BettaSTOP), used  text messaging to post comments on the quality of bus rides on AC Transit in Oakland.  OakWatch was a mobile/web project to allow real time neighborhood reporting via mobile systems.

Come on down and help bring The Town even further into the Digital Age.

MULTIMEDIA: I Am Oscar Grant

Video & photos by Oakland Voices contributor Sultanah Corbett

PHOTOS: Trash Fires, Riot Police, Protesters Light Up City

Protesters ignite several trash fires throughout downtown Oakland, as police in riot gear move in near Broadway and Grand Avenue. By Oakland Voices correspondent Dawneka Akins.

Many downtown businesses, including this Sears at 20th Street and Broadway, had their storefronts broken during tonight's protests and looting. By Oakland Voices correspondent Dawneka Akins.

PHOTO: Woman Hit By Police Car As Tension Builds in Oakland

A police car in downtown Oakland struck a woman as people gathered to protest today's Oscar Grant murder trial verdict. By Oakland Voices correspondent Tyrese Johnson.