Mandela MarketPlace – Beyond Food and Economy
For far too long, communities like West Oakland have suffered intentional and sanctioned dis-investment — stripping people and communities of financial assets, social cohesion, and human dignity. The work of Mandela MarketPlace builds a foundation for community re-investment — a foundation composed of engaged and honored community voices, resources directed specifically to empower those voices, and core values that honor community-owned solutions and economies for community benefit, grounded in a demand for health and a respect for culture.
Beginning by questioning a lack of access to healthy foods in West Oakland, residents understood that solving one challenge involved solving more complex issues and that sustaining that solution would take a comprehensive approach. To start, even just improving food access meant more than having food in a community — the elements of access are multifaceted. Access includes building the capacity in the community to purchase that food, to honor the food cultures of people in the community, and honor the producers, retailers, and families who are all part of a cultural food system. So, when residents answered the question, “How do you create a food-secure community?” — they designed a plan that included community-owned retail, honoring local culture, creating sustainable business ownership and job opportunities, dignity in work and community, and respect in how the food is grown, manufactured, and sold to families.
Mandela MarketPlace made, and continues to make, significant investments to support this community ingenuity. The strength and success of our work rests in lifting up community engagement and empowerment as core guiding principles — and recognizing that food can serve as an innovative catalyst for igniting local economies, local entrepreneurs, improved community health, and cultural awareness and dignity.