West Oakland’s growing and changing community is comprised predominantly of low-income Latino and African American residents with little access to nearby food retail. This forces residents to collectively spend more than $58 million annually on groceries outside of their own community. For low-income residents with little or no access to transportation, buying groceries is an increased challenge and results in community members doing their shopping at local convenience stores with little access to affordable, high quality fresh foods. As a result of this, diet-related, preventable chronic diseases are on the rise in the neighborhood.

People’s Community Market (PCM), a full-service, community-oriented grocery store will mitigate some of these challenges. Spearheaded by founder Brahm Ahmadi, PCM emerges from People’s Grocery, a nonprofit that has been operating food enterprises, community workshops, and more for the last 14 years throughout West Oakland. Ahmadi always envisioned a grocery store as part of the strategic vision of the organization. Now, with increased education and capacity, Ahmadi has turned the community’s request for a local grocery store into reality.

PCM is leveraging community partnerships, investment, and local buy-in to develop a 15,000 square foot grocery store that will make it accessible for community members to purchase affordable fresh and nutritious foods, prepared foods, and other groceries while also providing engaging educational programs promoting healthy eating. PCM commits to being intentional in its internal and external roles in the community by hiring locally, providing enhanced job training and benefits, and eventually converting to an employee-owned business model.

“PCM will be a catalyst for economic development in the neighborhood. We have to play an active role in influencing what other businesses come in and what commercial development in the neighborhood will look like,” said Ahmadi. “We want to support local community members in becoming more resilient so that they can fight the forces of gentrification more easily. We want the community to really feel like this is their store.”

Since 2013 PCM has raised $1.5 million through a community investment campaign where hundreds of California’s residents purchased shares of the store. Now, having located a site for the store at 3117 San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, PCM is continuing their campaign to raise a total of $2 million towards the project. Investments made by December 2, 2016 will be matched by a group of anonymous investors. To learn more about their direct public offering and details of the social impact investment opportunity, visit http://peoplescommunitymarket.com/buy-shares/

In Summer 2016 NCCLF provided PCM with a $25,000 grant from our Greater Oakland Fund (Go Fund). The GO Fund supports the acquisition, development and renovation of affordable housing and community facilities in select Oakland neighborhoods by providing nonprofit developers and community organizations with grants and zero-interest loans to fund site characterization and other predevelopment activities.

“We’re proud to support such an important project in the community,” said Ross Culverwell, NCCLF’s Chief Lending Officer. “Low-income West Oakland residents will finally have expanded access to affordable, fresh healthy foods.”