In Oakland, pilot testing and scaling of weekly, school-based produce markets in food desert neighborhoods helped inform and support a larger systems change within the public schools and the community.
In Oakland, CA, the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities project focused on transforming disadvantaged public schools into neighborhood hubs where children, youth and families can regularly buy fresh food and enjoy safe physical activity. Many school campuses sit in a high-poverty neighborhood without a full-service grocery store. Liquor and convenience stores serve as an important source of food for many residents. Many schools also lack adequate recreational space, and the space they have is closed to the public evenings and weekends because of crime problems.
Led by the East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC), the Oakland partnership built on the learning, community engagement and capacity it developed during the earlier Active Living By Design grant to launch two successful systems change initiatives. Oakland FRESH was a network of weekly, school-based, parent-led, organic produce markets with nutrition education, WIC/SNAP redemption, student incentives and other services. The Oakland Schoolyards initiative engaged the community with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) to redesign and renovate schoolyards with organized sports and outdoor education programming after school, on weekends and in the summer.
“Those initial years with Active Living by Design provided us the “runway” to match our desire to achieve ambitious systems change with the necessary preparation and capacity,” explains EBAYC’s Director David Kakishiba. “Consequently, during HKHC we were able to devote much of our time working with our public agency partner (OUSD) to enact long-term institutional change.”
Oakland FRESH established 22 school produce markets as an integral part of OUSD’s expanding efforts to provide low-income families greater access to fresh foods. With significant additional financial support from The California Endowment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Con Agra Foods Foundation and others, the partnership was able to expand the markets and build significant new capacity within OUSD. The school district now employs a full-time Farm-to-School Project Supervisor who is responsible for managing all aspects of Oakland Fresh. Institutionalized operations include central purchasing, distribution, sales and accounting; site solicitation, selection and orientation for the markets; fund development; and community partnership development.
The Oakland Schoolyards Initiative (OSI) established and tested a community-based model for the design, planning and partial funding of eight new community-designed schoolyards. While the OSI leveraged significant funding from the Stewardship Council, the National Football League, the City of Oakland and a number of private foundations, OUSD was the principal funder and project manager for the construction and maintenance. Most importantly, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) established a sustainable funding stream for the construction and maintenance of community-designed schoolyards throughout the city of Oakland. The 2012 Facilities Master Plan identifies $34 million to be spent on field, playground and garden projects at up to 54 schools.
OUSD is now engaging in a systematic and comprehensive effort to expand daily access to fresh foods, particularly by children, youth and families who reside in Oakland’s food deserts. And it has established the construction of schoolyards, playfields and community gardens as a funded strategic priority in its 2012 Facilities Master Plan and bond measure in order to foster daily physical activity and outdoor learning for 46,000 students.