By Esperanza Pallana, HOPE Partner and OFPC Director
Due to the extreme disparities in health, environmental impact, resource and food access in Oakland’s low income neighborhoods, there has been an increased attention and resources. With this increased attention has come controversy over what happens when there are sudden cosmetic improvements within a neighborhood. Does is lead to gentrification? The answer is complex…it depends. What it depends on is how it happens and who is leading the charge. When resources and attention lift up existing local businesses and promote ownership of housing among the community, it builds resiliency to fend off gentrification. These values are what guide HOPE’s Healthy Corner Store Project.
The Healthy Corner Store Project:
– Works with neighborhood leaders to determine what is needed and wanted
– Supports existing local businesses
– Ensures fresh, healthy, culturally appropriate food
– Utilizes the opportunity of working with suppliers of fresh produce to affect procurement practices and promote local sustainable farms with fair labor practices.
– Works closely with business owners to identify barriers to their success
By keeping the food dollar circulating in the community, HOPE is helping support affordability and preventing costs from being driven up. Without work like HOPE’s, owners would stay stuck in the cycle of charging more for their product and carry only the products that are a quick profit for them (alcohol, cigarettes or sugary food and beverages). Political humorist, Michael Che, shows another side of gentrification when costs drive existing owners out and there’s an influx of niche products that aren’t relevant to the surrounding community: