Health of the Hood: East Oakland’s Community Gardens

Food Fair at Tassaforanga Garden. Photo: Howard Dyckoff, Oakland Voices.

By Howard Dyckoff

Food surrounds us in our daily lives. We share food at family and community events. But where do we get our food and how fresh is that food?

Deep East Oakland is a fresh food desert. There are very few large grocery stores South of High Street and fewer farmer’s markets to buy food direct from the farm.

Liquor stores dot the landscape and many carry some so-called fresh food, although the fruits and veggies are often wilted or worse.

More and more research shows the amazing health benefits of the phytochemicals in fresh fruit and veggies and getting the bulk of of one’s calories from fresh fruit and veggies reduces the occurrence of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancer. But, in Deep East, fresh food is hard to find.

Now, many young Oaklanders are getting involved in community gardens and there are more of these projects every year. The ultra-fresh food grown in these projects feeds local families and low-income individuals. It brings people together in our communities.  It also helps educate school-age children about what food really is, how to grow it,  and how to be more self-sufficient.

Two of the more visible community gardens are recent projects near the Tassaforanga housing complex and the on-going gardening and nutrition workshops at the East Oakland Boxing Association (EOBA).  There is also a project starting to grow veggies on the roof of the Life Long clinic (at 106th Avenue) for their patients, but that is just starting up.

EOBA’s Garden and Nutrition Program

At EOBA, the gardening program is on-going, in spite of the wintery weather.  They sprout many of the veggies indoors and these plant starters are for sale to anyone beginning their own garden.  They also offer garden and nutrition workshops every other month in the EOBA classroom.

EOBA Garden Coordinator Cris Cruz talks about how deep to plant seeds. Photo: Howard Dyckoff, Oakland Voices.

“Our garden program helps the East Oakland Community on many levels,” explained Sarah Chavez, EOBA’s director. “In the garden, daily opportunities exist to reinforce the science, math, and language curriculum from their elementary schools, as well as basic socializing skills. Over the last year, the garden served several struggling preteens. ”

“Our garden provides a quiet space for them re-focus their energies and spend time with older peer mentors who are dedicated to being positive role models.  Our youth also take their lessons in urban gardening home to their families.  Many parents have given positive feedback regarding their kids’ interest in gardening at home as well as general increase in helpfulness.”

Garden at Tassaforanga Park. Photo: Howard Dyckoff, Oakland Voices

Tassafaronga Garden

The garden at Tassafaronga occupies a quarter acre at the corner of 83rd Ave and E Street. The program is run by a group called Acta Non Verb (ANV), which is a Latin expression meaning “actions not words.”

The project there focuses on youth of all ages, with kids planting, mulching, watering and harvesting real food.  The program invites children and parents to come by late afternoons on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Currently, about 20 families are involved.

When the garden is producing, the veggies go to the youth that work on ANV garden as well as sold at their farm fresh food stand.

“We have started our monthly ‘Family Dinners,'” said Kelly Carlisle, ANV’s Founder and  Executive Director, “that blend our work day (The first Saturday of each month) with the opportunity for community members to come together and eat together. Our first one was January 6th and it was amazing!”

Raised beds at the Tassafaronga garden. Photo: Howard Dyckoff, Oakland Voices

Back in October, the Tassafaronga Garden helped host a Food Day celebration with food samples, cooking demos, tabling from groups like the Oakland Parks Coalition, and family-friendly entertainment. There were educational and informational displays and even a GMO car. Mayor Jean Quan came to this Deep East location and was pleased with the demo food.

Click here for photos of the October event.

“Food Day was great and we had representatives from all sectors: non-profit, private, home-based business, homesteaders, and artists,” said Carlisle.

This year, ANV and California Food and Justice Coalition (CFJC) will be teaming up to make Sunday, October 21 the next Food Day extravaganza at their mini farm in East Oakland, Noon to 4pm at Tassafaronga Park & Recreation Center. Be there and see the future of food in East Oakland!




Author Profile

Howard Dyckoff has lived in Oakland for over 40 years and has been involved with many community groups, including Oakland Digital and Oakland Local, Block by Block, the East Oakland Boxing Association (EOBA), and CBE. A Brooklyn, New York, transplant, and an Aerospace Engineering graduate of NY Polytechnic, Howard also attended Laney College, where he wrote for the Laney Tower newspaper and was elected editor. Howard also attended the Starr King School at the Theological Union in Berkeley.

He has served as the Berkeley Free Clinic’s Outreach Coordinator, and also worked as an information technology professional at Chevron, Sybase, and Wells Fargo. He worked in both the 2010 and 2020 Census. Howard has been a regular contributor to Oakland Local and online publications such as TechTarget and Linux Gazette and currently writes for Oakland Voices. He currently does event photography and portraiture around the Bay Area.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.