The San Francisco Bay Area is well-known for its food culture, but its benefits don’t extend to everyone. Several parts of the Bay Area have very limited access to fresh food. Until recently, the community of West Oakland had 53 liquor stores, 14 mini-markets, and zero grocery stores. The closest was in Emeryville, 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) away. This limited food access has raised big health concerns. The Oakland Food Policy Council reports that 48 percent of residents in West Oakland are obese. For Ashel Eldridge, the solution lies with urban youth.
Ashel Eldridge (AshEL AKA Seasunz) is the founder of the roots-rap-reggae band Earth Amplified. The organization’s goal is to amplify the voices of people around the world, particularly in urban areas, and support these communities’ work in sustainable food production. In February, Earth Amplified and New Message Media published a comedic music video called Food Fight. The video tells the story of an average kid who learns how the food system is literally killing his community, and how fresh fruits and vegetables can be the solution. As part of the video, Earth Amplified worked with Vanessa Carter at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center to create a free school curriculum that teaches teens about the food system, both in the classroom and online.
Earth Amplified also runs SOS Juice (SOS being an acronym for getting the “System out of our System”). Originally a monthly arts, food justice, and health equity event, SOS Juice is now a for-profit/non-profit hybrid project. They train low-income youth and formerly incarcerated individuals in urban agriculture and nutrition, developing businesses that grow their own produce to make juice, smoothies and compost to help revitalize local communities.