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Organics in the Neighborhood

Malaika Edwards ’97, breathed life into an old postal truck in 2002 with her launch of the Mobile Market, an organic heath-food-store-on-wheels that cruises the streets of West Oakland, Calif.

Equipped with a grocery-laden refrigerator, the market is manned by a paid staff of high school students who concentrate sales near schools and senior centers. The market is an outgrowth of the People’s Grocery, a local youth-based organization co-founded by Edwards to promote healthy eating and the local economy.

“California is one of the most agriculturally rich places in the country, yet there are places where people can’t find affordable access to healthy food,” she says. The group recruits neighborhood kids to such programs as a Food & Justice Camp, which teaches agricultural techniques and the politics of food, or its multiple urban gardens, where kids plant and harvest crops that are sold at the Mobile Market at subsidized rates.

“If it weren’t for this job, I’d be sitting at home,” says Gerry Edmonds, age 16, pulling weeds in a small yard near an elementary school. “It makes me think about owning my own business and putting more money toward our community.”

Across the garden, Demi Boswell, 15, waters a raised bed. “This program changed my life,” she says, but notes with frustration that her friends still eat fast food. “When people are poor, they don’t have access to organic food.”

One recent evening, West Oakland native Malcolm Wiley buys a bag of green grapes from the Mobile Market, which is parked outside the local train station. “Most people here don’t have many options,” he says. “I was about to go to the grocery store to get grapes, but they wouldn’t be this sweet.”

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