Collective Roots seeks to cultivate a healthier, stronger, more connected community - from the ground up.
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Collective Roots envisions a world in which all communities are healthier, stronger, and more connected through the communal growing, sharing, and eating of nutritious foods. East Palo Alto’s deep history of agriculture shows how the cultivation and distribution of food can strengthen people and fortify communities. Through programs like our Backyard Gardener Network and weekly farmers' market, we work side-by-side with East Palo Alto to cultivate a healthier, stronger, and more connected community by building a more robust local food system.
Since its foundation in 2000, Collective Roots has focused on increasing the growing, sharing, and eating of nutritious foods in the city of East Palo Alto. Founders Holly Taylor, Amanda Feld, and Adam Mitchell started Collective Roots by planting school gardens at Belle Haven Elementary. The organization has since expanded its reach to focus more on community and backyard gardens through the establishment of the Backyard Gardener Network (BGN), which provides people of all ages the opportunity to grow their own food. In 2007, Collective Roots also founded East Palo Alto’s first farmers' market and the Fresh Checks program, which provides a monetary incentive for people to use their food stamp funds on healthy produce at the market. At the end of 2014, Collective Roots went through a very painful period of funding issues, which nearly resulted in Collective Roots' shutdown (more info here). Fortunately, those issues have been resolved, and we have been able enter into a period of rebirth, dedicated as ever to our work with East Palo Alto.
Why EAst PAlo Alto
Though East Palo Alto is in the heart of Silicon Valley, it remains racially, economically, and culturally distinct and diverse and has benefited minimally from the area’s technology boom. According to U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) measures, East Palo Alto is a designated Medically Underserved Area (MUA) and Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). It was considered a food desert until the arrival of Mi Pueblo Foods in 2009. In Palo Alto, just across the 101 freeway from East Palo Alto, less than 1% of residents depend on food stamps, a stark comparison to the 13% of East Palo Alto’s residents who are dependent. The linkage between income, food insecurity, and health are clear: Nearly half of the elementary school kids in the city are overweight or obese. The average lifespan of an East Palo Alto resident is just 61.8 years (a full 7 years less than the average lifespan of the greater San Mateo county), while the leading cause of death is heart disease.
Yet East Palo Alto and its residents have a rich history of agriculture and food independence. East Palo Alto is home to many first generation immigrants (70% of East Palo Altans speak a language other than English at home), who often grew up depending on land in their home countries for nourishment. Collective Roots seeks to reinvigorate this important connection to the land to improve the economic independence, health, and community connectedness of East Palo Alto.