Subverting the new narrative: food, gentrification and resistance in Oakland, California
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Alternative food movements work to create more environmentally and economically sustainable food systems, but vary widely in their advocacy for social, racial and environmental justice. However, even those food justice activists explicitly dedicated to equity must respond to the unintended consequences of their work. This paper analyzes the work of activists in Oakland, CA, who have increasingly realized that their gardens, health food stores and farm-to-table restaurants play a role in what scholars have called green gentrification, the upscaling of neighborhoods through the creation of environmental amenities. Gentrification has had grave consequences for the low-income communities of color that food justice activists seek to serve. Activists are reflexive about this dynamic, and have developed strategies to push back against displacement. Most commonly, non-profit organizations and individual social entrepreneurs found businesses that seek to raise the profile of people of color in the trendy Oakland food scene while employing long-term residents in well-paying, green jobs. However, while these efforts are an essential component of a broader agenda to create both food justice and development without displacement, even these relatively high paying (when compared to the industry standard) “good food jobs” cannot keep up with escalating rents. For this reason, we also highlight the direct action and policy-oriented strategies engaged by a smaller number of food justice activists, and argue that these are necessary compliments to a market-based approach.
KeywordsFood justice Urban development Gentrification Race Entrepreneurship Jobs Policy
The authors would like to thank all of the food justice activists and Oakland community members who agreed to be interviewed for this research.
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