In 2009, Gavin Raders and Haleh Zandi started a program called The Backyard Food Project. The program has since grown and blossomed in a number of ways, including its name. Now called Planting Justice, the Oakland based nonprofit offers a multitude of programs!
There’s the Planting Justice Education Program, which targets people directly impacted by poverty, and gives them resources to create a more sustainable living. The programs take place in institutions such as schools and prisons, as well as on farmland. And there’s even a multimedia platform where participants can connect to people around the world.
The Transform Your Yard Program allows people to pay to have their yards renovated. And on top of having some fresh orchards and a new flowerbed, the money paid subsidizes the establishment of a garden in a low-income area.
The Planting Justice Canvass program works on a block-by-block basis, where people are go out and introduce residents to the importance of sustainability, and the connections between ecology and public health. Raders says that this is a major source of funding, as a lot of people realize how important this initiative is to the greater society.
The Urban Farm and Training Center in El Sobrante is the newest program. It’s a five acre piece of land that serves as the grounds for people to get hands on experience in farming, processing, marketing and distributing fresh goods!
There’s also the collaboration with the Insight Garden Program at San Quentin State Prison. The non-profit, directed by Beth Waitkus. Raders says that the program, “Teaches men in prison vocational gardening and landscaping as well as life skills development that empower participants to successfully reenter society.”
The majority of Planting Justice’s work is done in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, but they have served residents all throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Raders says that the importance of food equity hinges on access to affordable healthy food and well-paying jobs. Focusing on these two aspects will alleviate dietary related diseases and poverty-induced stress.
“According to the Alameda County Public Health Department, diet-and lifestyle-related diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke are the primary causes of premature death in the county. Far too many thousands of people in the urban Bay Area are malnourished and unable to access affordable whole foods and organic produce,” said Raders.
Raders, a social justice activist and permaculture scholar, says “Dignified economic opportunities are so scarce that many people decide to resort to illegal activities in order to feed their families, leading to mass incarceration, violence, and personal/collective trauma. Planting Justice is demonstrating that formerly incarcerated people and those of us on the economic and social margins can and should become leaders in the movement for healthy local food systems,”
As the Executive Director, Raders believes that within the next three years, his organization will launch an Urban Aquaponics Farm and Cooperative Training Center!