SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A new full-service supermarket scheduled to open this month in one of Oakland's low-income neighborhoods is the latest success story for a collaborative effort aiming to make nutritious food more accessible to poor residents.
With the nearest supermarket about three miles away, Gazzali's Market will fill a void in multicultural East Oakland. The 30,000-square-foot store, set to open in a former supermarket that's been vacant for several years, will be the first new retailer to serve the community in nearly a decade. The Algazzali family, local residents with past experience operating supermarkets, will run the newly renovated store.
Here, consumers will find a large, 3,000-square-foot produce department with a selection of conventional and organic fruits and vegetables, as well as posters and signs encouraging people to eat produce, courtesy of the California 5 A Day program. The campaign, a division of the California Department of Health Services, is an umbrella group promoting healthy eating and exercise.
Lately, the group has focused attention on the issue of improving consumers' access to healthy food in underserved communities. Funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this 5 A Day campaign works with many local groups and government bodies to advance the cause. In this case, produce items will be supplied by CNS, a former Fleming operator.
The new store will be located in a cultural melting pot. While the area's Hispanic population appears to be growing, black and Asian families also are represented. Most local consumers do not drive. A team from the Alameda County Public Health Department met with members of the Algazzali family to stress not only the importance of opening the store in the East Oakland area, but also stocking the right merchandise -- ethnic foods and quality produce to appeal to local consumers, recalled Valarie Scruggs, marketing manager for the California African American 5 A Day program, an arm of the state's campaign.
"Residents wanted more affordable fruits and vegetables," Scruggs said.
In talking to the Algazzali family, the community advocates found a receptive ear. Providing high quality at reasonable prices is the operating principle for the retailers.
"We want it to be very competitive, have low pricing but have good quality produce, to meet the needs and demands of the area," said Amani Algazzali, co-owner of the supermarket. "We want it to be as good quality and fresh as we possibly can. We want to have a good reputation so when people walk in they'll find good quality and fresh food." The produce department as well as a "huge" meat department are likely to be major attractions, Algazzali said. The store also has a bakery where many items will be baked fresh, a deli and a taqueria featuring an assortment of tacos, burritos and other Hispanic items.
The supermarket is one of several projects the California 5 A Day campaign -- and its multiple partners -- are working on to improve access to healthy food for Californians. The Alameda Health Department is working to enhance the offerings at small corner stores located within walking distance of schools. Instead of emphasizing cigarettes and alcohol, storekeepers are being encouraged to bring in a selection of produce items and merchandise the products to appeal to students stopping in on their way to and from school, Scruggs said. In exchange for their cooperation, store operators are receiving donated refrigerators and other fixtures for displaying fruits and vegetables.
The California 5 A Day African American campaign was instrumental in bringing a farmers market to the East Oakland Faith Deliverance Center. Participants in the federal Women, Infants and Children program may use their vouchers to buy produce at the market. Open for two years, the market began as a once-a-month affair on the church grounds. Now it is open for business once a week from May through November.