Day Twenty Six

The Mobile Market has grown in the past two years to attract hundreds of loyal customers, and it's not hard to see why. Photo by Gregory Dicum, special to

The Mobile Market delivers produce to hundreds of people in West Oakland. Photo by Gregory Dicum for

In West Oakland there are 53 liquor stores and no grocery stores. There is a 99 Cents Only store, but that is as close as it comes to accessing fresh produce. The primary sources of food are fast food restaurants and snack foods from corner stores.

The 24,000 people who live in this area are mostly black and latino, 35 percent of whom live in poverty. I originally learned about this when reading a past issue of Adbusters magazine. Upon further research I found that as a result of the situation, community projects have sprouted up in order to provide healthy foods and fresh produce.

The fact that people in West Oakland must travel a few miles in order to buy wholesome food is a sad one indeed.

The fact that I never knew this when I lived in the bay area is shameful. If I had known about this while living in San Francisco, I would have stopped complaining about having to travel ten city blocks to pick up my organic produce.

It just goes to show that if we take some time to learn a little bit more about our communities, or other parts of our cities, we can find a different reality, one that may surprise and possibly disturb us. So this weekend I plan to find a part of Encinitas that I currently have no previous experience with.

To discovery,


Daily Totals:

Breakfast: Oatmeal – $0.05

Lunch: 1 Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich – $0.31, 1 Peanut Butter Cookie – $0.06 (Kerri only)

Dinner: Wheat Gluten cutlets w/ Gravy – $0.31, Salad – $0.15 (1/4 carrot – $0.03, 1/6 heart of romaine – $0.08, TBSP Garbanzo beans-$0.04), 2 TBSP dressing – $0.06

Dessert: 1 Peanut butter cookie – $0.06, 1 near-Cup of Tang – $0.06 (Christopher only)

Christopher Total: $1.00

Kerri Total: $1.00

Donation Total: $717


NOTE: If you think what we’re doing is interesting, inspiring, or just plain nutty, consider SPONSORING our efforts. Simply enter in an amount, click “update total” and follow the prompting. If you don’t have PayPal, it will let you use a credit card. At the end of the of the month all proceeds will go to the Community Resource Center (here in Encinitas, CA). We will post evidence of donations at the end.



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10 responses to “Day Twenty Six

  1. Marm

    I’m glad to read you’ve been eating some vegetables. 🙂

    It is a sad state in our society that stores in low income neighborhoods don’t supply fresh fruits and vegetables, and the food they do sell may come from questionable sources [China, etc.].

  2. Manda Kay

    I lived in the Tenderloin while in sf a couple years ago. I never strayed far from my home due to the sketchy neighborhood and lack of funds so potato chips from the convenience store downstairs were usually about as close as I got to fresh vegetables.

  3. I donate the the CRC food pantry on a pretty regular basis. But after volunteering for a Cub Scout’s food drive to fill the CRC’s truck a few years ago, I was appalled at the amount of empty calorie starchy foods people donated. Hardly anything donated had substantial protein, natural fats, or was an unprocessed, whole food. I know the CRC unfortunately needs to deal pretty much with non-perishables and unbreakable packaging without regard to nutrition because they don’t have the resources to handle fresh and perishable foods. And I know when people are hungry they can’t be choosy about macro-nutrients.

    But after seeing the preponderance of starchy “nothing” food in the typical food drives (even the donated canned vegetables were excessively starchy – like corn, the most commonly donated canned vegetable is a starchy grain, not really a vegetable), I started making all my food donations foods items with nutrient-dense protein in mind – canned wild salmon, in particular, is a pretty good nutrition bargain and meets CRCs requirements. I find pretty good buys on wild caught Alaskan canned salmon at the 99 Cents Store (& Trader Joe’s) when I shop for my donation items. I wouldn’t feed my family all that empty starch.

  4. Anna, what a great idea! That never occurred to me. I don’t have a lot of starchy vegetables in my house in general–I’m not a fan of corn–but thinking about the nutrient density of the foods I donate is well worthwhile.


  5. Sara

    I will say this…if the liquor stores didn’t thrive in that area, then there wouldn’t be so many. Thriving depends on the customers and where they would prefer to spend their money.

    This correlates a lot of what I have seen in the poorer neighborhoods that I had lived in. Often, alcohol would come over decent food. After all, veggies don’t give you a buzz. Even ones that DID have a grocery store, you would see people walking out with those “starchy” over-processed items (and often expensive junk food) over a bag of apples, which are nutritious and keep fairly well.

    Sometimes people get the boxed stuff because it keeps longer, but when I was well beneath the poverty line I would buy apples and PB and eat PB apples for a meal. I would buy ground beef, and beans and tomato sauce, and have a healthy a pot of chili I would eat on for a week. It freezes well, too. A 10# bag of potatoes (which are starchy, but nutritious, especially with the skins on) was fairly inexpensive, at the time. (naturally, this stuff costs more now)

    The funny thing is, usually the working poor will try and buy healthy stuff when they can, but I’ve noticed a lot of people that don’t want to work and try and play the system would rather spend money on alcohol or other unsavory things, rather than food. And what food I personally saw them buy was, as stated before, expensive junk food with little to no nutritional value. A lot of these people were on food stamps, and could easily have afforded more nutritional food, but chose not to. I myself was on food stamps at the time (which is based on your situation), and was able to live fairly decently.

    Even poor had tvs, and they had access to info on health and nutrition, they just didn’t care.

    This doesn’t apply to all the poor, but apparently I’ve lived in some pretty bad neighborhoods where a lot of the people that I’ve observed would be this way.

    But I’ve also seen those who work hard and try their best. Usually these were fewer than the others, but they are out. It’s these latter folks that I would have no problem helping out.

    The ones that choose their situation and then gripe about it, I have no compassion for.

  6. Angelina

    We must bear in mind, a store a few miles away is not some substantial thing. We have mass transit, bicycles, and cars to travel by… I shop a lot at Trader Joe’s for good, organic foods and the nearest one is about 5-10 miles away. It’s not a tragedy, and I don’t mind the distance because I choose to buy those things over cheaper, hormone filled foods…
    Ultimately people want what they want. My grandmother was on welfare for a time. She got a divorce, was unemployed and had my mom and aunt to care for with only $47 to her name. She took her welfare and made choices on what was important and what was not. She bought ground beef, never steak. She was responsible and can tell you that on very little one can do much. She can also tell you about those she met who were also on welfare that would brag about it. They bought steaks, refrigerators, and took advantage of the “help” they received.
    Ultimately, we as individuals who have more should give of ourselves, but ask those we help to work for what they are given to give them a sense of pride and help them to have work ethic. It’s a balance and without demanding a person earn what they get, where is the incentive to earn? It’s gone and like those my grandmother met, people simply expect.

  7. Not everyone has a good public transportation system. I live right in the middle of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and we do not have buses or anything. DART went over budget or something, and my city pulled out, so no buses now. We do not have a Trader Vics, and I’m sure that there are lots of people who have no idea what that is. So you can’t just expect people to go to the other side of town or another town to get what they need.

    I recently went out of town on business and had to go to a grocery store. This must have been the only grocery store in the little town, and I was surprised how much more stuff costs in this grocery store than I was used to paying at home. As I was not staying long and did not really want to fill the micro-fridge with stuff that would mostly go to waste, I thought that I’d take the easy way out and buy TV dinners so that I got protein and veggies and everything. The TV dinners were almost twice what they cost at home. We found a Subway and ate most of our meals there instead.

  8. downcastmysoul

    I live in an area with only one overpriced supermarket in my neighborhood. Right around here there used to be like 4 liquor stores and 3 or 4 of those sh*tty little “convenience” stores that sell mostly cigarettes and soda and milk. 2 of the liquor stores have closed due to gentrification but no new supermarkets have arrived. The next closest one is 2 miles away: easy by car but a pain on public transportation, carrying the bags as always. Other areas east of here are being built up and new stores are being added at a breathless pace, but not here. This was the traditional “bad” side of town before the yuppies came back. The nearest big box discount store like Sam’s is about 5 miles away and without a car it’s impossible to transport the economy sized items. I’ve done it with one of those little carts but it was very heavy and almost impossible to get it on and off the bus even with the lift. I used to have a friend who drove me to the discount warehouse but no more. Most people around here drive, poor or not.

  9. Micki

    In Philadelphia (I’m not sure if this is true everywhere–it may be), you can use your government subsidy to buy food at farmers’ markets. The vendors accept food stamps/EBT ACCESS and WIC/ Senior Citizen vouchers, etc. People on assistance can get fresh, local produce (including eggs and cheese, using WIC benefits) and the farmers benefit, as well. From what I understand, it is an EXTREMELY popular program and everyone is very happy with it.

  10. Robbie

    FYI, Angelina, the urban poor rarely own cars. I live in the Bay Area, and took the public transit system for nine years (this was by choice; I am not among the urban poor). I spent two hours per day commuting…about 4 miles each way. So, while I value and am grateful for public transport, being in the middle of Oakland (where the buses come far less often than in SF) and trying to get to a grocery store that’s thirteen miles away is no small task. It’s a potentially four hour trip, and you can’t even stock up on a bunch of groceries while you’re there because you’ll have to carry them back on the bus. Now I have a car, and not only can I get all my shopping done in about an hour, but I can dart around to three different places and take advantage of all the best deals. It’s an entirely different reality.

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