In West Oakland, over 25,000 residents do not have access to fresh foods, affordable groceries, or positive social venues. People’s Community Market, headed by CEO Brahm Ahmadi, hopes to change this by creating a full service food store, health resource center, and community hub for a thriving Oakland.
“We are creating an intersection between food, culture, and community,” said Ahmadi. “Building community is the fundamental way to make progress- towards lifestyle change, health, and overall social well-being.”
People’s Community Market, a for-profit venture, is an offset of the successful People’s Grocery in West Oakland (creators of the first mobile market in the country). Ten years in the making, once built, this physical retail shop will help eliminate retail barriers and “food deserts” in surrounding low-income neighborhoods.
“Residents were telling us what they wanted…a full grocery store in the neighborhood,” said Ahmadi. “Inspired by other models around the country, we saw the impact we could have in the Oakland community.”
Addressing needs beyond the retail proposition, People’s Community Market will focus on quality fresh food offerings, something significantly lacking in the current food landscape of West Oakland. Often times this community does not have access to quality, family restaurants or places to gather to have a good meal.
“There is a real lack of positive social spaces currently in place in West Oakland,” said Ahmadi. “We hope to create a fairly significant cafe – a place to have a pleasant meal with family and friends.”
Coined the “Front Porch,” this space will include a covered courtyard, stage, patio, and small play area for children. It will act as a place of recreation – a place to have a meal and socialize. Scheduled to incorporate programming events and guest speakers, People’s Community Market will aid in building community and social connection.
“We were inspired to really utilize grocery spaces as community centers, said Ahmadi. “Beyond retail, it will help anchor the economic and social development of those communities.”
Also critical to the community will be the market’s focus on health and education. With only one health center currently serving the greater community, many people must wait weeks before receiving service or treatment. Hoping to assist, the Market will partner with various health organizations to offer services to the community free of charge.
“We are interested in being a resource to the community, building and managing a network of providers,” said Ahmadi. “From food selection and preparation to general nutrition education, we want residents to become more knowledge about wellness.”
In addition to modeling the market as a type of social movement, People’s Community Market will also act as a space for economic development. The for-profit venture will allow stakeholders an opportunity to buy shares in the company, giving California residents the opportunity to directly invest in the Market, and its ongoing drive to build a healthy community.
“We really valued the opportunity for ownership with this project,” said Ahmadi. “Each contributor will have a stake in the venture – it becomes much more rooted and creates an economic empowerment platform.”
In addition to investing, supporters are encouraged to become a “champion” of the project by spreading the word. Individuals and households who believe in the positive impact and want to support their mission can request a champion toolkit, which includes fliers, posters, bumpers stickers, and lawn signs. To learn more about being a champion, visit http://peoplescommunitymarket.com/be-a-champion/.
“The most important aspect when opening a business like this is social capital,” said Ahmadi. “We have created a solid foundation and vision to launch forward with our retail operation.”
By Rachel Hommel, LoaTree team writer