Five Bay Area Food Organizations Addressing Racial Inequity Through Feeding Efforts

Jamil Burns' farm Raised Roots works with the Anti-Police Terror Project to distribute prepared food sourced from his farm to protestors against police brutality.  (Jamil Burns)

Even before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, community-based organizations in the Bay Area have led feeding efforts to address food insecurity for vulnerable populations across the region. Many of these organizations have doubled down on their efforts in response to the pandemic and the recent uprisings against white supremacy and police brutality. They’ve focused their efforts on feeding protestors, organizers and those most directly affected by police violence and other systemic inequalities around housing, immigration and labor. The common thread is a recognition that protesting and change-making is an ongoing struggle that needs sustenance in order to succeed. Below is an incomplete list of various efforts around feeding those at the frontlines of the fight for equity and Black liberation. We will update this list once a week to reflect new efforts for protestors and organizers across the Bay Area.

Black Earth Farms

Black Earth Farms started as a guerilla farming project on the UC Berkeley campus and has grown into a volunteer led fresh food distribution effort.
Black Earth Farms started as a guerilla farming project on the UC Berkeley campus and has grown into a volunteer led fresh food distribution effort. (Courtesy of Black Earth Farms)

What started off as a group of guerilla gardeners on the UC Berkeley campus, Black Earth Farms is a year-old collective of farmers who’ve been delivering fresh produce to Black residents in the East Bay since last summer. Prioritizing historically marginalized populations, the collective most recently has focused their effort to feed Black protestors in the ongoing uprisings against police brutality leading fundraising efforts on their Instagram page. “We have access to the UC Gill Tract community farm in Albany, that’s where we’ve been doing most of our growing,” explained Minkah Taharkah, a UC Berkeley graduate who serves as a volunteer coordinator for the crew. The impetus to start Black Earth Farms for the founding members of the collective came from the food insecurity they saw on their own campus. “We were all students that were experiencing food insecurity,” Taharkah said, citing that 54% of undergrad students and 38% of graduate students on Cal’s campus are food insecure. Over the course of their year-long tenure, the collective has collaborated with various organizations including Mandela Grocery Co-Operative and Raised Roots.

Raised Roots

Operating across six different farm plots across the East Bay, Raised Roots is a six-year-old farm and food production outfit run by Jamil Burns. With three plots in Oakland and three more in Livermore including an olive grove, Burns has organized feeding efforts this month in collaboration with other small farmers and local chefs to provide free meals at protests over the last month. In early June, Burns collaborated with Natalie Pearce of Natty Cakes who offered her commercial kitchen space to prepare meals for protestors. “We will continue to work with [the Anti-Police Terror Project] to distribute directly to protesters while we work to expand our outreach to other communities in need,” Burns explained over email. More recently, Burns has sourced produce from his own farm and others to prepare two rounds of meals out of La Cocina's kitchen which were distributed to unhoused people in West Oakland.

East Oakland Collective

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The East Oakland Collective is best known for their flagship Feed The Hood program, a robust gathering to feed those in need of a meal every other month. Since the pandemic, the organization has switched to a distribution and delivery model to maintain safe distance and is currently distributing around 1,500 meals a week. The East Oakland Collective is also feeding protestors along with providing water and first aid kits as they face tear gas, rubber bullets and other hazards of protesting. “We’ve noticed that since the East Oakland Collective started doing Feed the Hood events in September of 2017, more groups, more churches, more families, have started feeding the people,” wrote founder Candice Elder in a piece for Eater earlier this month. “It’s not a competition. We actually have given people the rubric, the model in order to do so,” Elder added.

People’s Breakfast

The Oakland organization has been providing food, tents, sanitary kits and mental health resources to West Oakland’s unhoused population since 2017. Founded by Oakland natives Delency Parham and Blake Simons, People’s Breakfast recently started a fund to bail out Black protestors and provide them with food and legal support once they are out of jail. People’s Breakfast models their growing offerings from the Black Panther Party for Self Defense’s multidimensional approach towards Black liberation.

More Information about People’s Breakfast

Named after one of the Panthers’ most well-known programs, People’s Breakfast is continuing their feeding program distributing food and sanitary kits including masks and hand sanitizers three times a week in West Oakland.

The Homies Freedom Store

Homies Empowerment  is a grassroots community organization in its 11th year that operated as an after school  program with weekly dinners. More recently, the group switched gears to meet the needs of their East Oakland community that has particularly been hard hit by COVID-19 by opening the FREEdom store. Every Tuesday at the Homies' FREEdom store in Oakland’s Eastmont neighborhood, residents can shop for food, toiletries, baby formula, and basic sanitary products, all for free. The project is funded through material donations and a GoFundMe campaign that has raised over $10,000 .