One Small Step: A Moveable Feast Interview by Orli Cotel
"I got the idea for the People's Grocery because I was living in West Oakland, a low-income community of 30,000 people and only one grocery store. We have over 40 corner stores that sell tobacco and alcohol but very little healthy food. And most of the food sold in those small stores is much more expensive than in your average supermarket.
Malaika Edwards (left, with Nakia Dillard and Javonda Harris)
Cofounder, People's Grocery, age 30
"I cofounded the grocery with Brahm Ahmadi and Leander Sellers because we wanted a positive alternative. We began growing organic food in community gardens and selling it at affordable prices.
Once we were able to raise enough money, we started a 'Food n' Justice Camp' for inner-city kids where we trained them at organic farms. Then, with the young people, we started the Mobile Grocery. We bought an old mail truck for $3,000, painted it orange and purple, put solar panels on the top to run a sound system, and filled it with produce. It's like a natural-foods store on wheels, and everything is nonprofit. We have a regular route where we stop at schools and residential areas.
"The young people all started the program eating fast food many times a week, and they underwent this huge transformation to where they were eating completely organic!
"There's a perception of organic food as being for an elite class, but that's not true. Anywhere you go, there are people who are concerned about their health. When we started, I thought that everyone in West Oakland was going to be all about fast food, so I was trying to stock natural Cocoa Puffs. But then our customers were like, 'Where's the tempeh?' and 'We want miso.' It's not that poor people don't want to eat healthfully. People will eat organic food if they have access to it."
GOOD FOR YOU: According to the British nonprofit Soil Association, organic produce has, on average, a higher level of nutrients than conventional produce does, and organic farming results in 40 to 60 percent lower carbon dioxide emissions per acre.