Saturday, September 13, 2008

Market Failure

I just came from an event held by People's Grocery, an organization dedicated to bringing healthy food to West Oakland. One of the salient points they made was that there are more than 50 liquor stores in West Oakland and no grocery stores. Their website has a blog post up about how things used to be in West Oakland, with 3 supermarkets and mom-and-pop grocery stores seemingly at every corner.

I've seen in my own neighborhood (Dimond) how much a good grocery store can be an anchor for the community. Farmer Joe's, despite its anti-union stance and sky-high prices, has revitalized the retail strip on Fruitvale Avenue near MacArthur. It has essentially paved the way for the Peet's and La Farine and other small stores, the places where I actually meet up with/run into people from the neighborhood. Our city's planners and politicians would be doing much better to keep and attract quality grocery stores instead of sports teams. The "food deserts" in East and West Oakland are a failure of the free market, and should be treated as a basic health issue. We just might end up rebuilding communities in Oakland while we're at it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you on the planning issue -- there's a governmental responsibility being shirked by this community, but thank goodness for organizations like People's Grocery who are trying to make a change.

And it was a great event, wasn't it? I left totally inspired that change is happening.