COUNCIL PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE SHENG THAO, OAKLAND MUTUAL AID COLLECTIVE PARTNER WITH SABA GROCERS INITIATIVE TO DISTRIBUTE 1,500 MUTUAL AID KITS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 8th, 2021

OAKLAND, California – The Oakland Mutual Aid Collective (OMAC) under the leadership of Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao will be collaborating with Saba Grocers Initiative (SABA) to distribute 1,500 mutual aid kits across 5 Oakland corner store communities through February and March 2021. In light of this partnership Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao and Councilmember Carroll Fife will be visiting Campbell Market in West Oakland on Tuesday March 9th to distribute the first 300 mutual aid kits. In January 2021, Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao visited three participating stores (Isler’s Liquor, Jalisco Market and Nawah Market) to discuss the importance of the Saba Initiative, barriers to store owners in providing fresh produce and their role as store owners in serving the Oakland community in a healthy way.

“The ability to receive good nutrition and have access to healthy food is a human right.” explained Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao “ However, as we know, food insecurity was an issue across Oakland before the pandemic and the presence of COVID-19 has only exacerbated this harsh reality. Food banks are reporting unprecedented levels of need while many families and small businesses are experiencing financial difficulties. It is my hope that our partnership for mutual aid kit distribution will increase awareness to neighboring residents that their local corner store can provide their nutritional needs as we continue to fight to keep Oaklanders safe and healthy.” 

Mutual Aid Kits will be customized for 5 different corner stores currently participating in the Saba program. Each kit will include a cloth mask, 5 disposable surgical masks, 2oz hand sanitizer bottles, gloves and coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables for each neighborhood store. This partnership is an expansion of the Saba hand sanitizer stations being installed in 13 stores as a result of recent CARES Act funding allocations and the ongoing PPE distribution spearheaded by the Oakland Mutual Aid Collective.

“Income, food, and housing insecurity were already huge problems in Oakland pre-pandemic but COVID-19 has no doubt exacerbated these issues making it abundantly clear that existing structures are failing our communities.” said Councilmember Carroll Fife, District 3. “The system is failing to provide for and protect people. But where systems fail, community organizes. That is what the Oakland Mutual Aid Collective and Saba Grocers have done. They have stepped up to help care for and protect our communities by providing much needed PPE and coupons for fresh food items. It’s always beautiful to see the community come together to help one another and I’m happy to join in this effort.”

Saba Grocers Initiative is a group of corner store owners who have organized to provide fresh food in low-income neighborhoods with low rates of food access. A total of 120 corner stores in Oakland are owned by the Arab, Muslim and Yemeni Community. As a result of this organizing initiative, $200 thousand dollars were allocated in the 2019-2020 budget cycle by the City Council from Oakland’s Sugar Tax to fund a pilot project with 5 corner stores. Since, SABA has grown in scale and it’s currently working with 26 stores in Oakland’s flatlands and funded by Oakland’s CARES Act. Saba’s mission is to turn liquor stores into community stores by leveraging the deep rooted knowledge of the Arab and Yemeni community at various nodes of the local food chain. Website / Facebook Page / Contact: Lina@sabagrocers.org  

“Isler’s liquors and many other stores who are part of the program with Saba are really looking at the community as something different. We are trying to become community stores where we have everything, a one stop shop in our neighborhoods. That’s what we need.” said Andre Isler, Owner of Isler’s liquors in Melrose.

“Working in a corner store when first immigrating to the USA really showed me how hard it is for a store owner to carry produce and how easy it is to carry alcohol and tobacco.” said Dhaifallah M. Dhaifallah, Co-Founder/Saba Grocers Manager. “As a Yemeni-American I am motivated by the need to change the system that makes unhealthy products essential for small businesses to survive.”

“We at Saba are available to continue this work of making healthy foods accessible and affordable through our network of organized corner stores. Together we can realize a just, equitable and sustainable food system for Oakland; We ask our supporters, store owners, residents, city leaders and community partners to continue supporting this critical work.”  said Lina Ghanem, Founder/Saba Grocers Executive Director.

The Oakland Mutual Aid Collective is an intergenerational women of color lead united response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of OMAC is to fundraise for, procure and rapidly distribute essential PPE and public health information to vulnerable communities in Oakland. It is composed of the leadership of Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao in partnership with AAPI Women Lead, the UCSF Center for Child and Community Health, the UCSF Black Women’s Health & Livelihood Initiative, and the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. The Collective focuses on serving marginalized communities of which they belong or have belonged to; including the unhoused, low-income and immigrant families, seniors, essential workers, BIPOC communities and other under-resourced adults, children, youth, and families. For more information visit www.oaklandmutualaidcollective.org

WHO: 

Oakland City Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao; Oakland City Councilmember Carroll Fife; Mokhtar Nasser, Campbell Park Stop Market Owner/Manager ; Oakland Mutual Aid Collective; Lina Ghanem, Saba Grocers Initiative Executive Director; Dhaifallah Dhaifallah, Saba Grocers Initiative Manager

WHAT: PPE Kit Distribution

WHEN: Tuesday March 9th, 2021 at 9:45 A.M.

WHERE: 799 17th Street, Oakland Ca 94612

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