A new grocery cooperative in East Oakland is recruiting up to eight founding cohort members by May, who will then go through a 12-week training over the summer to become the first group of worker-owners in the Fall. The goal of the East Oakland Grocery Cooperative (EOGC) is to create a worker-owned, healthy grocery store for and by the community.
In 2018, nonprofit youth farming organization Acta Non Verba became a part of a planning grant through the East Oakland Neighborhood Initiatives, a partnership between the City of Oakland and thirteen community-based organizations focused on community-driven planning to build the health, wealth and stability of East Oakland. Their vision is to create a worker-owned space that will feed and nourish the surrounding communities for the next seven generations.
Opening up a grocery store in East Oakland was always a long-term vision of Acta Non Verba and Mandela Grocery Cooperative, according to Ayano Jeffers-Fabro, project manager of the East Oakland Grocery Cooperative. The EONI grant allowed them to begin to engage deeply with the community about what they want and how to make that happen. “This was born from the community, and we are just helping to activate it,” Jeffers-Fabro said.
Food is medicine, the most basic necessity for survival. Jeffers-Fabro said, “Food is a sacred, essential experience,” noting that food has been used as a weapon against Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities.
There’s been a growth in urban farming, farmers markets, and just more education in general about eating better. Yet the privilege of eating better continues to leave out communities most in need. But communities in West and East Oakland are reigniting “the food is medicine” movement, bringing hope and much-needed food into communities. In 2009, Mandela Food Cooperative opened up after a neighborhood hadn’t had a grocery store since the 1960’s.
In 2011, Acta Non Verba founder Kelly Carlisle and her staff began farming their way into the hearts and plates of nearby residents of the Elmhurst neighborhood in East Oakland. The nonprofit grows, sells, and cultivates youth and family programs grounded in food systems revitalization, including financial literacy and ownership. These efforts also center Black farmers and Black ownership.
The project is powered in partnership with Acta Non Verba, Mandela Grocery Cooperative, Repaired Nations, HOPE Collaborative, the Sustainable Economies Law Center, the project’s Founding Cohort, and the East Oakland community.
A steering committee was formed in a cooperative model so that the project would be grounded in a more intentional and democratic way. Jeffers-Fabro stated that “Success is gauged by a version of success that is the opposite of the oppressors.”
After the 12-week training, the founding cohort will become the first set of worker-owners for the EOGC and will be in a temporary space in the 60’s and Foothill Blvd in Fall 2020, and later move to a more permanent space in Deep East Oakland.
For More Information on the East Oakland Grocery Cooperative:
For more information on health statistics: