Imagine living in a low-income neighborhood, not owning a car, and the closest grocery market that sells fresh fruits and vegetables is 5 miles away. Meanwhile fast food chains and corner stores like McDonalds, and 7-11 are walking distance. What would your diet look like then?
About 2.3 million American households live in these food deserts. In this interview, Susan Beck of Soul Sister Farms and Food and Dana Harvey of Mandela Marketplace discuss their solution to providing food access and to revitalizing community living.
Mandela marketplace is a worker-owned, for-profit, co-op grocery store. The market serves 25,000 residents of West Oakland, who previously had no access to a fresh market. In addition to the benefit of food access, the co-operative also transformed the community. Since the workers are all part owners of the market, they feel empowered as entrepreneurs.
The program was so successful that the Alameda county government invited Harvey to introduce the Mandela Marketplace concept to Cherryland’s 14,000 residents. That was how Harvey met Beck, who has been busy converting large undeveloped lots to small commercial urban farms. Her urban farms will supply part of the food needs of the new market.
“We need to shift the mindset from jobs to entrepreneurship,” says Beck, who is leveraging her urban farm program to educate the community and empower leaders. While her farms will not produce enough food to fully supply the new market’s needs, urban farming has untapped potential in value added products. These products include cut flowers, herbs, essential oils, soaps, and composting services. Due to access to entrepreneurs in these urban areas, many of these products can be made locally and will become a main source of profitability for the community. Access to fresh food feeds the body, while access to empowerment feeds the soul, and that’s what Beck and Harvey are doing, one underserved community at a time.
Dana Harvey – 510 433 0993 firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Beck 510 772 0800 email@example.com
Connie Kwan is a Social Entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley, CA. She holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School, and covers stories about triple bottom line businesses and projects. Follow her on Twitter @ConnieMKwan and check back for more video interviews from SOCAP 2011.