July 11 2013

Oakland Potential for Food Independence

Food access and policy is essential to an urban environment, and like other components of city life, is often hijacked by corporate control. The recent awarding of the “World Food Prize,” essentially by biotech monopolies to themselves, is depictive of some of the tactics used by institutions such as Monsanto and Syngenta. As pointed out in the Huffington Post by Eric Holt Gimenez, executive director of the environmental non-profit, Food First Institute; these monopolies supply more fuel and farm feed than actual feeding of the hungry. An interview with Gimenez focusing on the Food First Institute’s home base, Oakland, California, highlighted how communities can regain control of urban food-systems. He pointed out that approximately $60 million a year is siphoned out of the city, and that localizing food production and distribution would increase the multiplier benefits of those dollars circulating within communities.

Strategies such as enabling Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and community organized groups, like the Oakland Food Policy Council, would work to provide an avenue towards engaging the citizenry and influencing policy. Gimenez noted that recommendations offered by such organizations should include measures like the allocation of arable land for community gardens and urban agriculture, the creation of pesticide and Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) free zones, promotion of local food enterprises in underserved areas, advocating for diverse food retailers such as mobile vending and accessibility of affordable farmer markets that accept food assistance funds to name a few.

A Geographic Information Science (GIS) based project, Cultivating the Commons, sponsored by Food First and other non-profits, is exemplary of the vast amount of arable land available and underutilized in Oakland that could be used to expand local food production for the city. Such findings include “1,200 acres of undeveloped open space at 495 sites.”

King’s Estates Open SpaceKing’s Estates Open Space

53.84 acres of urban farming potential at King’s Estates Open Space located between MacArthur Blvd. and I-580 in East Oakland

Overall, organizing locally to participate in urban land-use planning and recognizing organizations truly working towards public interest is the best defense against conglomerate control. Also, as pointed out by Gimenez, acknowledging food prizes organized more credibly by food activists such as the US Food Sovereignty Alliance can help to counter the hidden agenda of such prizes issued by the GMO monopolists.

If the food prize vote were up to you, is there a provider in your community you would find more deserving or would you argue against the notion that GMO corporations do more damage than good?

Credits: Images by Gina Kiani. Data linked to sources.

Gina Kiani

Gina Kiani is a Graduate student at the University of Southern California and will complete a Master of Science in Geographic Information Science and Technology in the Fall of 2014. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of California Berkeley in Conservation and Resource Studies with a concentration in Sustainable Urban Environments. The primary direction of her objectives and pursuits focus on the use of Geographic Information Science (GIS) to facilitate Sustainable Urban Planning. Her interest in GIS concerns how spatial analysis can provide an over-arching context to many of the themes that are relevant to the interpretation of data and information required in efficient decision-making and modeling. With indisputable evidence of anthropogenic induced climate change, she hopes to utilize GIS in areas such as change detection of atmospheric composition and water levels, epidemic outbreaks, deforestation, reforestation, energy and food production etc., to contribute to the continual characterization, monitoring and evaluation of natural resources for sustainability purposes. Her skill-set includes dissecting and performing the critical components of a site suitability analysis, sustainability inventory, spatial analysis, field techniques for GIST, programming and customization, spatial database management, research and dissemination. Her final year of study will include project management and her thesis in GIS for Sustainable Urban Planning. As the Oakland and Berkeley California correspondent for Global Site Plans, she hopes to remain current on relevant development issues and discover emerging GIS strategies while advocating for sustainable planning.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 11th, 2013 at 9:27 am and is filed under Environment, Environmental Non-Profit, Land Use, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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2 Responses to “Oakland Potential for Food Independence”

  1. Hunter Says:

    This is a great write up. Hits it home with some of our local issues that aren’t unique to us here in Oakland.

  2. Gina Kiani Says:

    Thanks Hunter and that is very true…
    If you take a look at the parameters set in the “Cultivating the Commons” analysis, I bet applying them to most urban environments will return A LOT of underutilized space, without even including the rooftops!

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