Food touches the life of every Oakland citizen. It is a basic human need on par with water,
housing, transportation and other essential urban infrastructure. Though complex and
interrelated, the food system can be conceptually broken down into five basic elements:
production, distribution, processing, consumption, and waste. These elements present
social, economic, and environmental opportunities as well as challenges to our every-day
lives and to society as a whole. Such current and interdisciplinary issues as obesity, fossil fuel
consumption, urban sprawl, and job preservation/growth can all be seen through a “food
lens.” Concerns over quality of food, access to food, and the long-term environmental
impacts of both patterns of agriculture and urban food consumption present a number of
problems that current food system relationships have not adequately addressed.
Across North America and around the world, a group of diverse actors in cities are stepping
up to identify problems within the current food system that cause harm, and are searching
for ways in which the system can be improved to provide for greater health and wellbeing of
our cities and the surrounding countryside. Many organizations in Oakland, including
departments within the City government, have been active in seeking solutions to problems
that the food system presents to the community. Over recent years, these efforts have
increased as new organizations, programs, studies, and partnerships have formed.
In June 2005, Mayor Jerry Brown’s Office of Sustainability initiated this study in order to
begin a process of evaluating each element of the food system in Oakland, and to provide
key baseline information on the various activities that represent it. On January 10, 2006, the
Oakland City Council, Life Enrichment Committee unanimously passed a resolution that:
…[authorizes] the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability to develop an Oakland
Food Policy and Plan for thirty percent local area food production, by
undertaking an initial food system assessment study, conducted by a research
team from the Department of City and Regional Planning, University of
California at Berkeley, at no cost to the City.
This baseline analysis is therefore intended to initiate discussion among City policymakers,
staff, and community members to consider the impact that the City’s food system might
have on different areas of public concern. It also begins to assess the potential for
increasing the consumption of local foods among Oakland residents. This includes
exploring how systems of production, distribution, processing, consumption, and waste, as
well as city planning and policymaking could support the objective of having at least 30
percent of the City's food needs sourced from within the City and immediate region.