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Oakland Museum of California put on "Makers and Tasters: Food Activism" inspired by the "All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50". Photo by Tian Chenwei

Oakland Museum of California hosts food activism event

on October 10, 2016

The topics of healthy food, community wellbeing, education and employment intersected at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) on Friday evening. Inspired by the free breakfast program run by the Black Panthers, the activist group that is the subject of the museum’s newly-opened exhibition “All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50,” OMCA put on an event called “Makers and Tasters: Food Activism,” which brought together organizations that are making a difference through food.

The event showcased Bay Area organizations like Rubicon Bakers, a Richmond-based bakery which trains and employs people who need a second chance; CUESA (Cultivating A Healthy Food System), which holds educational programs and famers’ markets; Imperfect Produce, a hunger-fighting organization focusing on fruit and vegetable waste; and Planting Justice, a non-profit that works with the formerly incarcerated and does everything from planting gardens to teaching cooking skills. Staff from the organizations packed an empty café, setting up their tables with pamphlets, samples from desserts to plants, and small quiz games.

“We’re here to tell people about Jack London Square farmers’ market,” said Brie Mazurek, marketing and communications manager at CUESA. If you use Calfresh EBT (food stamps) at a CUESA market, she said, you could get twice as much food with the stamps, up to $10 a day. “Lots of people are not having organic healthy foods because they are more expensive. … And most of the small farmers are struggling,” she said.

CUESA now holds farmers’ markets at Jack London Square and Ferry Plaza, and offers tours to farms and classes for school kids. Mazurek said their work is to make sure more people have the ability to consume healthy foods while helping giver farmers a better life.

Staff from Imperfect Produce showed their seasonal product boxes at their table. “We buy all the strange-shaped products from farmers directly,” said Jon Jeter. Then they sell them for a price lower than a market would. “Normally, they just go to landfills,” he said of the vegetables.

Rubicon Bakers brought small cakes baked by their employees, people who have formerly been homeless, in prison or struggling with substance abuse. Planting Justice showed plants from their nurseries and staffers told stories about how they educate prisoners and provide job opportunities for them when they are out of prison.

Next to the event was the exhibition hall for “Black Panthers at 50,” where photos and bags for its free breakfast program are shown to the visitors. Tigress Chiang, a resident in Oakland, visited the Black Panther exhibition and came across the event. “They are all new to me,” she said while watching a kid throwing an apple into two baskets labeled “yes” and “no” to answer quiz questions at the CUESA table.

“The Black Panthers are like the pioneer in food activism. They started the free breakfast program and made it something national,” said Nicole Wires, a permaculture designer at Planting Justice. At 50, the Oakland-born group seems to still be casting its influence in the neighborhood. “And we’re making sure that the communities they used to work on keep moving on,” Wires said.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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