by GEHRY OATEY
I have so far done a good job at pecking away at the holes in Oakland’s current school lunches. The ‘hella’ stale sandwiches, reheated meals, and expired milk are, sadly, accepted as normal here in our district—as they are in many of America’s cafeterias.
It’s time to recognize some small strobes of light (to grab a phrase from the previous post) making their way to Oakland. Thanks to the hard work of a few ‘fed-up‘ teachers, students, community members, and district staff, the I hella love Oakland community is doing something about the malignant federally subsidized food system. And, yes, this post is meant to make Oakland School District homies look good.
It’s no secret you are more likely to find a liquor store than a grocery store in East Oakland. This year with the help of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and in collaboration with East Bay Asian Youth Center and Alameda County Public Health Department, the Oakland Unified School District will pilot twelve farmers markets in public schools and make available an impressive amount of fresh produce to those living in one of our country’s most populated food deserts.
Oakland parents will get free produce in exchange for helping run the markets at school sites once per week beginning October 21st. The markets will purchase pesticide-free produce from local farms (many smaller farmers can’t afford to get certified as “organic”). At some schools, the students will actually take part in setting up and running the market! Food stamps will be accepted at the markets and their will be nutrition education and cooking demonstrations with the help of Alameda County Public Health Department.
As an educator, it is empowering to see a local grassroots movement collaborating with city and county agencies who are often stuck in recovery. There is some real action taking place in Oakland. It seems the times they really are a’changing. Michelle Obama planted a garden at the White House. Michael Pollan is keeping it real by defrocking the Industrial Food Czars. Even Tony Allen, the godfather of Afrobeat, is giving props to real Home Cooking.
So here it is. Whether or not you have kids—support this movement. We are all in recovery. If you live in Oakland, come out and visit us at the market. My own school, Melrose Leadership Academy, will be hosting its first farmers market on October 21st from 1-4 pm.
But perhaps most important, whether you are an underpaid teacher, under-appreciated parent, or a misunderstood vegetarian, get yo’ self into the kitchen and cook with someone you love. Undermine the industrial food profiteers. The conversation in itself is a start to making us all healthier.
Eat the change you want for the world.