Transforming her neighborhood
By Amir Aziz

Candice Elder, founder and executive director of the East Oakland Collective in Oakland, California, rests under the 78th Avenue sign near the organization's headquarters before her workday begins.

Like many days since January 2016, when she founded the East Oakland Collective to drive racial and economic equity in the neighborhood where she grew up, Candice Elder begins work at 7 a.m.

Today, she is organizing a food distribution for the community at the collective’s headquarters, 7800 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland, California. 

Candice and her team begin with an 8 a.m. trip to a local Costco store to fill up a van with groceries, household necessities and personal hygiene items. The wholesale warehouse’s staff greets her team warmly, as they are frequent shoppers.

When the team returns to the collective’s headquarters, families have already formed a line. Rather than receiving bags of food, families choose their own items. A diverse group of families make their way around the organized table, carefully selecting items. 

“Giving people the option to choose what they want to take away reduces waste and gives agency to those in need," Candice says.

The collective has a goal of serving 250 families, but on this rainy and overcast day a smaller number is expected to show up. By the end of the day, 150 households will have been served. Any extra food is stored until the next distribution.

Providing food and other basic supplies to people in need is only one of the collective’s missions. The organization works with homeless people and helps build economic empowerment, civic engagement and leadership among East Oakland residents.

Candice looks into the distance while on the way to Costco to meet her mom and the East Oakland Collective team.