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EC Oakland and its ARC Partners Build Awareness of East Bay’s New ‘Community-First’ Food Prep Facility

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At a February 15 community meeting in Richmond, Calif., EC Oakland and its Anchors for Resilient Communities (ARC) partners introduced urban food producers from Oakland and Richmond to FoodService Partners (FSP), a company that provides meals for hospitals, schools, senior facilities, stores and other anchor institutions.Sarah Wally of FSP/MyC, who leads the design/build of the new Richmond facility, presents the project plans.

FSP has begun hiring trainees for a new Richmond food processing facility that is ARC’s first step in creating a sustainable, local food economy in the East Bay.

Community members also learned about the quantity of sustainable food and food products that will need to be sourced from both urban and regional producers in the coming months, the jobs that this project is generating for the communities of the East Bay and the parties’ commitment to community ownership.


Facility Tour, Relationship-Building
The meeting “began with an early morning walk-about at the new 100,000-square-foot FSP food processing and meal preparation facility,” reports EC Oakland Director Tara Marchant. “Then there was a sizable convergence of participants at Urban Tilth’s Northern Richmond Farm,” a model program of urban food production, food justice and community organizing.

Local urban farmers, from left, Shyaam Shabaka, Eco Village Farm (Richmond); Kelly Carlisle (standing) of Acta Non Verba Farm (Oakland); Hank Herrara, New Hope Farms (Pinole); Andromeda Brooks, Happy Lot Farm (Richmond).

After that, 30 to 35 community activists, urban farmers, ARC staff and advisors, anchor institution and foundation reps and FSP managers and staff gathered at Richmond Works to begin getting acquainted and building relationships. Urban farmers shared what inspires them to grow food and jobs for their communities, and FSP staff shared what inspires them to build an important part of the ARC initiative in the framework of “putting community first.”

That key building block is My-Cultiver, or MyC, a regional food project that is “part food hub, part aquaponic greenhouse, and part meal production and distribution center,” according to EC Oakland’s ARC partner, Health Care Without Harm.


Putting Community First
With plans to locate its core operations in the East Bay, My-Cultiver intends to produce and distribute to anchor institutions such as hospitals, schools and universities some 200,000 ready-to-eat meals daily. Significantly for the new food economy model, those meals will be comprised almost entirely of fresh, seasonal, locally produced and sustainable ingredients.

By embracing and participating in the ARC planning process, which places community health and wealth at the forefront, MyC is demonstrating its commitment to:

  • Creating jobs for residents;
  • Fostering a cooperative ownership model;
  • Increasing the capacity of community-owned food businesses to scale up to the institutional market;
  • Supporting urban and regional sustainable food production; and
  • Increasing community residents’ access to healthy food.

The Hiring Process Begins
A couple of days after the successful community meeting/tour, the FSP team, in coordination with the City of Richmond economic development program, began interviewing dozens of local applicants for the first 20 good-paying jobs at the Richmond facility. “By the end of this year, there will be an additional 60 to 80 new jobs created and filled,” Marchant said. “FSP was thrilled with the turnout, the support and the interviewees.”

Doria Robinson welcomes ARC partners to Urban Tilth’s North Richmond Farm.

ARC partners will continue to organize learning sessions, planning time and conversations among the variety of stakeholders needed to make the new FSP/MyC initiative a resounding success.

“We are confident that the new facility will bring the East Bay closer to a vibrant regional and resilient food system and a strong, localized food economy.” Marchant added. “In fact, we are organizing a March 8 tour of the South San Francisco FSP facility and Richmond farm/facility – a gathering that will focus on local anchors’ procurement and community benefits staff and financing/funding partners."

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