Friday, September 10, 2010

Snap. Snap. Snap.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

I walk down Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, California, four hours before midnight.
At 39th Street, there are few people around.
I look through the windows, and the crowbars, of a closed and empty market store.
I see perfectly-aligned rows of commercial fruit juice, canned vegetables, and freezers full of plastic-packaged meat.

The shelves scream sugar and salt.
Zooming out from zooming in, I then read a flier on the window with big, bold words:
"We Accept EBT Here!"
I'm glad I'm accepted.
But my body cringes, back curves, and stomach clenches, not wanting those foods in me.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

I keep walking, crossing 40th, 41st, 42nd Streets.
My body opens, back straightens and stomach widens.
I see shops, markets, and more people ambling.
I stop, eyes glimmering at a restaurant boasting delectable food, and folk just as much.
My mouth salivates, anticipates, ameliorates.
The "Special" tonight - wild salmon with arugula and walnut balsamic vinaigrette dressing. $16.99.
Stickers dawn the windows: Mastercard, Visa, Discovery.
Where's "We Accept EBT Here"?
I get it. "Expensive Bread Tonight".
My body cringes, back curves, and stomach clenches.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

Ahh, 51st and Telegraph. My destination: Temescal Produce Market.
I step into a petite, organized, and well-lit building.
Organic fruits and vegetables, teas, and some foods I recognize - lemongrass, ginger, mushrooms.
A medium-built groomed man greets me, smiling and enlivened, as if I'm the only one in the store.
I'm the only one in the store.
"Do you accept EBT here?" I ask.
He continues to smile. "Yeah", and hurries to finish unpacking boxes by the freezer.

My eyes explore the edibles. My mind mediates mayhem.
It's my compromise. My mediary. Where I can go for some of my food nowadays.

But what is food justice if those at the market store can't dine at that restaurant, let alone may be scared of how they might be looked at, stereotyped?
And what is food justice if those at the restaurant might not shop, let alone may be scared of how they might be looked at, stereotyped?

What is food justice if what I can access, I won't, and what I can't, I want? What I won't will kill my body. What I want will kill my bank account.

In those 10 blocks of Telegraph Ave., I experience food injustice.
I am in a middle ground, the Temescal Produce Market is it.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

I snap out of my mind mayhem, and snap back to reality.
Shaken, I leave the store. My mind, full of sympathy. My hands and stomach, empty.

51st. 50th. 49th.
I hear my mom's voice in my head.
"Hải, đang làm gì? Con cần phải ăn."
"Hai, what are you doing. You need to eat."

I grab eggs, ginger, and coconut in the store.
Walking home, I acutely smell and grab mint, basil, and chives.

Snap. Snap. Snap.
Snap out of a food system favoring "the fancy" over "the faulty", profit over people and planet.

Snap into a food system favoring bountiful biodiversity, community commitment, and nutrient nourishment.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps.
But really, Sustain Needs for All People.

Snap. Snap. Snap.


Bijan Kimiagar said...

::snap snap snap::

cassan said...

Beautiful, Hai! Keep writing!

HoftheM said...

I love this guy. I am taking this way of life, the things I have watched and read from Hai Vo and apply it at home in Mexico.
He has me me a better man.