Food justice advocates, community organizers, and members of the UC Berkeley community came together at the campus Multicultural Community Center on April 28 to attend the release of the Haas Institute’s newest report on food justice and community health in Richmond, California. Nadia Barhoum, a Haas Institute researcher who authored the report, discussed her research and guided the audience through a group discussion of potential solutions for problems related to food access and equity in Richmond.
Barhoum’s report specifically focused on the role that UC Berkeley could play through its planned Berkeley Global Campus in Richmond.
“UC Berkeley is a public institute and a land grant university, and its mission and values should be integrated into its plans to expand—that is, develop this new campus while still investing in the public and surrounding communities,” Barhoum said. “As a premier research organization, UC Berkeley has the resources and human capital to create jobs, training, and educational pathways for communities who have been historically excluded from these types of opportunities.”
The report, entitled “Food Justice and Community Health in Richmond,” explores strategies to facilitate more deeply engaged partnerships between UC Berkeley and the Richmond community, which struggles with an array of structural barriers to opportunity, such as poverty and food and environmentally-related health challenges, which mirror those of many other low-income neighborhoods across the US. According to the report, more than 50 percent of Richmond’s youth are overweight or obese, with youth of color demonstrating significantly higher rates than their white peers.
“The prevalence and targeted marketing of processed, high fat, and high-sugar foods and drinks to youth from marginalized communities has only exacerbated these health issues,” Barhoum wrote in the report. Additionally, many areas of Richmond are considered food deserts—on average, Richmond residents must travel almost a mile to reach a full service grocer. A recent study cited in the report found that “for every supermarket or farmer’s market located in Richmond, there are at least six fast food restaurants and convenience stores.”
Barhoum challenged the audience to consider ways in which UC Berkeley’s campus in Richmond could help ease some of these challenges while uplifting the community as a whole.
Her report laid out a number of potential strategies that could be compelling ways to address these issues, including a UC Berkeley food policy council to oversee and create more synergy towards food-related initiatives sponsored by the campus that are often disconnected from one another. Other solutions include: creating a regional food hub to help localize the food system in Richmond, which would enhance opportunities for local, sustainable jobs; providing technical assistance in supporting community projects and programs related to the environment, food and health; and sponsoring public health partnerships between UCSF, UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, and Richmond to further improve health and healthcare in the larger Richmond community.
Additionally, the report suggests that the new campus incentivize vendoring contracts with locally-owned food businesses and businesses owned by members of marginalized communities. “In so doing, the campus would create local jobs and opportunities to start new businesses that help support the local economy and social sustainability,” according to the report.
While Barhoum’s report specifically focuses on food access and health issues in Richmond, her research comes out of more than three years of work in partnership with local organizations in the area. The Haas Institute has been working with community partners in Richmond to develop anchor institution policies and practices (aimed at the proposed Berkeley Global Campus) that would achieve the community's vision of increasing economic inclusion and community health.