Grocery Store as Cultural Center

Community markets can play an important role in preserving cultural food traditions. They can reintroduce and reconnect people to their familial and cultural food heritages. And they can help reinvigorate a passion for and practice of the diverse food ways of a community.

West Oakland has a rich array of food cultures and traditions that reach back generations. People hailing from the Southern States, Latin America and Asia brought many of these cultures and traditions to West Oakland. However, the presence of some of these food traditions has diminished as residents become immersed in a corporatized, industrialized and culturally homogenous food system.

Yet, as we interact with and hear from local residents, it’s clear that there is strong desire among many to be more connected to and knowledgeable of the food cultures and traditions of their diverse heritages. This desire presents an opportunity for People’s Community Market (PCM) to stimulate and provoke conversation and awareness about West Oakland’s food cultures.

From offering cultural food products to hosting workshops and speakers on food cultures to using performance art and creative expression to explore the rich landscape of issues pertaining to food culture in the community, PCM will support residents’ desires for a meaningful relationship to food that connects them to their cultural traditions, histories and values. And all of this will be done right in our grocery store so that customers can conveniently attend a class, event or activity before or after their shopping trip.

Supermarkets often feel like sterile warehouses void of culture, creativity and heart. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Food stores can be hubs of cultural activity that facilitate meaningful interactions between eaters, their food and those who produce that food. And they can become centers of re-imagining how communities are nourished and connected to the world around them.

A food culture revolution is happening. Even in under-served communities like West Oakland, many residents want more than just access to food. PCM will support this food revolution by providing as much space for and attention to food culture and tradition as to the food products that are on our shelves.

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