'Planting Justice' cultivates community resources needed for food sovereignty

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Healthy food, green jobs, and community wellness are blooming in East Oakland's Sobrante Park. And "Planting Justice" is at the root of these growing efforts to secure food sovereignty in the Bay Area.

To date, the nonprofit organization has built over 550 edible permaculture gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area. Emerging from the grounds are a plethora of fruits and vegetables.

"Sage, blue rosemary, fava beans, fig trees," rattled off Planting Justice nursery technician Simone Robinson. "Look at this chard, it's beautiful."

Through the garden, Planting Justice has furthered the food justice movement by creating numerous jobs for formerly incarcerated community members.

"As a high school student myself, I needed a job, and I was from a single-parent household where we were eating a lot of fast food, despite the fact that my parent had an associate's degree in culinary arts," explained Planting Justice Education Director Maya Salcedo.

"It painted a picture for me that health isn't just about decision-making, and it's not just about knowledge, but it's about what we have access to and what is convenient for us."

Salcedo and Robinson are addressing structural inequalities and transforming the food system one garden at a time. Since 2009, the organization has empowered hundreds of people to grow their own food.

Today, they're cultivating urban farms and training centers to increase the scope and scale of this work.

"I'm really committed to making sure that other folks have an opportunity to learn about the food system, to learn about environmental justice, and understand how relevant it is to their lives," said Salcedo. "Whether it's housing security or food access, wellness, health, pandemics, all these things are social justice issues. That's why I'm really grateful that Planting Justice provides an opportunity for so many people to find a way to make a difference in those areas.

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