A decade ago, there were more than 50 liquor stores in West Oakland and zero full-service grocery stores. But in 2009, community members launched Mandela Foods Cooperative, a health food store in the neighborhood with a small but Whole Foods-like produce section. Despite the high failure rates of new businesses–around 70% fail after 10 years–the store has survived. This year, it will expand into a new retail space more than twice as large.
“Mandela Foods came about really from a community push to begin to address the issues of food insecurity and economic disparities in West Oakland,” says Dana Harvey, executive director of Mandela Marketplace, a nonprofit that launched shortly after the worker-owned grocery store to help support it and other food-focused, community-driven initiatives in the area. Harvey and other activists helped lead the creation of the store. “One of the solutions the community identified that would be important is that they should own their own grocery store.”
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