The People's Grocery: Developing a Worker-Owned Community Grocery Store

By Brahm Ahmadi

People's Grocery is making speedy progress from a mobile organic food service cooperative towards developing a worker-owned cooperative grocery store in West Oakland in which local food and sustainable agriculture will be prioritized in a community health model centered on nutrition education for low-income residents of the community. At the same time, the cooperative is taking their business development goal beyond the single cooperative grocery store to a broader community development initiative focused on establishing a commercial and health service complex.

Known as a "Wellness Village," the People's Health Complex will offer a more comprehensive set of services including a health clinic, a banking institution and a child care center. The grocery store is planned as an anchor for personal and community health of local residents who are impacted by chronic disease and obesity. A cooking school, a "Nutrition Nook" consulting desk, a demonstration garden and a classroom training facility are also planned for the store.

This grocery store will also focus on:

? Enhancing food security within West Oakland by increasing the availability of healthy and fresh foods and disseminating nutrition and health education;

? Promoting local food and sustainable agriculture and contributing the regional food system through local food procurement and production practices; and

? Engaging in economic development through a cooperative business model that provides employment, training and ownership opportunities to residents.

People's Grocery has identified a dilapidated and historic shopping center in West Oakland and will soon release its business plan. In the near future People's Grocery will begin recruiting community and business partners to provide health supportive goods and services that fit within the Wellness Village format and augment its impact through a collaborative model.

Brahm Ahmadi is a co-founder and executive director of People's Grocery in West Oakland, California. He is also Executive Director of the North Oakland Land Trust, which preserves properties in North Oakland for the exclusive purpose of community gardening. Brahm is active in worker-owned cooperative business development and organizing for economic democracy and was a founding board member of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives.

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