Sowing Seeds of Displacement: Gentrification and Food Justice in Oakland, CA


Green gentrification is the process through which the elimination of hazardous conditions or the development of green spaces is mobilized as a strategy to draw in affluent new residents and capital projects. Based on observations and interviews in Oakland, California, we argue that food justice organizations seeking to promote access to healthy food in low‐income communities can unwittingly create spaces that foster this process. Despite a desire to serve long‐term residents, activists embody a hip green aesthetic that is palatable to affluent whites and can be appropriated by urban boosters to promote the neighborhood. We use this process as a lens to theorize links between food and green gentrification, highlighting the importance of food to cities’ efforts to brand themselves as ripe for redevelopment, and understand green gentrification as a racialized process tied to cultural foodways. We also attend to the practical stakes for food justice activism, arguing that a clear understanding of green gentrification and food justice activists’ unwitting role in it can help the latter to attempt to mitigate their culpability and seek to develop broad inclusive strategies for locally led development without displacement.