Welcome to West Oakland Farms, Where Former Black Panther Elaine Brown Is Helping Ex-Cons By Giving Them Ownership In An Urban Farm
The economic decline has much of America adjusting to fewer job opportunities and increased reliance on safety-net programs such as food stamps. In West Oakland, this has been a way of life for decades. West Oakland was once a vibrant railroad and shipbuilding center populated mostly by middle-class African American families.
Since the 1950's the neighborhood has faced job losses from the demise of local business and industry. An average West Oakland household has three people and an income of only $21,124 per year. 32% of the 21,000 residents live below the poverty level. 24% of residents rely on food stamps and Medi-Cal. These institutions provide a vital safety net for families in poverty, but they don't provide a long-term solution nor address the root causes of the problem.
West Oakland also suffers from environmental racism, where polluting industries have priority over the health and vitality of residents, the majority of whom are people of color. The neighborhood is surrounded on all sides by freeways and has constant truck traffic from the Port of Oakland. The EPA gave the air quality a rating of 13 on a scale to 100, with higher numbers indicating better air quality. The rate of childhood hospitalization for asthma is 150% higher than the County's average. There are over 300 hazardous materials storage sites and a prevalence of severe toxins such as lead, cadmium and PCBs.