Growing Justice Institute

The Growing Justice Institute supports Oakland residents with designing and implementing community-driven solutions to food insecurity. Over two years, with technical assistance and training from People’s Grocery, a group of Fellows launch income-generating projects that build the local food system. Projects range from catering companies to cooking classes.


Yavette Holts

How does your project support the mission and vision of People’s Grocery?: “Barter is a way of restoring full value to commerce interchange. Barter opens channels that haven’t existed before. It is powerful local response to a monetary system that is collapsing around us.”

The Purpose of this project is: “To encourage interpersonal rather than monetary dependence. Empowering folks with their skills and time as resource. Connectedness  in accomplishing a goal. Feeding families, improving access by opening an alternate means of commerce. Boost personal confidence by encouraging people to bring their special skills forward and be rewarded.”

Which Root cause of Food Injustice have you identified that your project addresses?: “Breakdown of person to person exchange; lack of individual responsibility to the community; anemic connection the common good. It will also address limited opportunity to improve access to better quality foods and services and compassion and stressed household budgets.”

Nyame Selassie

Nyame comes to The Growing Justice Institute with 22 years of experience as a holistic educator providing products, trainings, and services in Michigan, West Virginia, Georgia, Texas, California, Hawaii, and Mexico. She has created and markets her own all natural body care line, is a Sufi healer, and has worked in communities as diverse as mediation centers in Malaysia, black farmers and community organizers in Detroit, incarcerated peoples in the prison industrial complex, healers in Chiapas, Mexico, and as a leader in the Ecobarrios movement, a project to develop and support processes to move ghettos off the grid throughout the world. She is working on bringing this methodology and work to Detroit and West Oakland by launching Ecobarrios-USA to provide “a comprehinsive approach to urban sustainability.” She is constantly searching and researching solutions to the systemic challenges of urban communities covering the range of psychological, spiritual and physical imbalances. Through the GJI, she is working on building The Black Living Institute, a community resource center which will feature natural and recycled materials using off the grid passive alternative energy, grey water catchment and filtration systems, permaculture designed garden, and a community gathering space with a cobb oven. The Black Living Institute seeks to engage and support community involvement in internally generated solutions and methods leading to self reliance through sustainable lifestyles.

How does your project support the mission and vision of People’s Grocery?: “One of the areas of Ecobarrios-USA’s work is to participate in and support the implementation of home and community gardens to ensure food access stability in the urban areas of the U.S. in general and West Oakland California in particular. Ecobarrios-USA is based in the Oakland area. “

The Purpose of this project is: “Be part of the team that is aware of the present paradigm shift toward self sustainability globally and will put forth constant effort  to assist in bringing West Oakland residents into complete self sustainability and self reliance for their food sources and resources along with their internal sustainability.”

Which Root cause of Food Injustice have you identified that your project addresses?: “The systematic and deliberate planning and implementation of racial, economic and geographic oppression toward people of color and other minorities centered around food access, food quality and pricing, and the constant violation of human rights in urban areas according to article 25 #1 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration.”

Nicole Dixon

West Oakland native Nicole Dixon is a visual artist, Montessori preschool teacher, and community steward.  Her hands stretch across many fields, including art, curriculum, cultural/gender studies, holistic health, sustainability, and community empowerment.  She is currently creating a curriculum for juvenile facilities, schools, and youth programs entitled FRESHHFood as a Restorative Education in Sovereignty and Holistic Health.  Its mission is to empower youth in developing a cosmic identity and socio-cultural agency with a holistic, art/project based education through the lens of food justice.


Jacqueline Thomas is a force for change in the health, wealth, and mindset of the African American community. She is a long time farmer, chef and community organizer who is piloting a farm-to-table urban agriculture and cooking program in West Oakland. She has secured land and kitchen space to launch her program and has already built sustainable community partnerships to guarantee the long-term success of her program. She is using her skills as an organizer, cook and wellness educator to move West Oaklander’s to healthy, delicious food from their soil to their table. Email her at

Billy Page of Divine Raw Foods is on a mission to heal the community through accessible, delicious, nutritious, raw vegan food. As a Raw Vegan chef for 7 years, Billy has shared the healing powers of a raw vegan diet with countless people, reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers in the community. He has developed Divine Raw Foods into a business of his own and is working on expanding and centering his business in his native community of West Oakland. Email him at

Shalina Allen of Love ‘n Soul Catering is taking food justice from her kitchen to the streets. She is organizing to break cycles of “fast food”, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure through foods that she cooks with love for the community. She moderates and organizes Get Cooking!, a cooking club focused on creating healthy, affordable alternatives to “fast food.” She has completed two successful pilot sessions of Get Cooking! in West Oakland and is now preparing to launch the program full time. As the cooking club gets settled, Shalina will be developing and expanding her own catering company aptly titled Love ‘n Soul catering. Email her at

Deborah Carney is mobilizing a number of community-based organizations to expand food access and nutrition education in her neighborhood. She is launching a bus system to expand food access across the housing developments of Oakland. Her ride share system will take people from their housing developments to various food distribution sites in Oakland. Coupled with this program, she will be distributing seasonal recipes and health information to the community. Email her at

Raheemah Nitoto of Urban Holistic Solutions is a brilliant holistic health & nutrition educator in the community. She teaches workshops, classes and performs consultations that empower individuals to live healthy, high quality lives. She is organizing a healing space in West Oakland to expand her work. She has developed a solid business plan through partnering with a number of community based organizations, and is now looking to expand Urban Holistic Solutions to become more deeply rooted in West Oakland. Email her at

Virginia Hall is a mental health advocate, housing justice organizer and lead organizer in the West Oakland Grocery Store Project. She is sending a message to the food industry that quality of food services are important to West Oakland and need to be accountable to the voices and leadership of West Oakland residents. She is developing a plan for a respite house in West Oakland that provides accessible housing to people with mental and physical disabilities and supports their well being through health meals and wellness curriculum centered on a thriving urban farm attached to the house. As she develops her business plan, she is building partnerships with numerous local advocacy groups and residents interested in her vision. Email her at

Paula Beal is a long time Oakland organizer. She is mobilizing her years of experience with food justice and community empowerment to open a sliding scale, community-based restaurant and food justice center in West Oakland. She will use this space to perform political education, teach cooking and urban farming classes, and support other West Oakland community work. She is the process of developing a business plan and has already recruited two angel investors. She will be spending the next few months organizing a series of community meals and events focused on building community support for her project. Email her at

Click here to read an Annual Report of the Growing Justice Institute: Growing Justice Institute Annual Report 2011


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