The Labor of Food


Presented by UC PRESS
Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 3

12:15pm – 1:15pm

Is it local? Is it organic? Such questions are at the heart of the contemporary food movement, which has succeeded in raising awareness about the environmental and economic impact of our food system. And yet, the food movement has done little to bring attention to the exploitative and dangerous labor practices common to all sectors of agriculture. This panel brings together activists and scholars who will discuss what “ethical eating” means when we consider farmworker rights.
JULIE GUTHMAN is a professor of social sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism and Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California.
SETH M. HOLMES is an anthropologist and physician. He received his PhD in medical anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco, and his MD from the University of California, San Francisco. He is Martin Sisters endowed chair assistant professor of public health and medical anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent book is Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States.
DANA PERLS is currently the food and technology campaigner with Friends of the Earth. She was formerly the Northern California community organizer for Pesticide Watch.
ESPERANZA PALLANA (moderator) is Council Director of Oakland Food Policy Council. She has been shaping the movement across the country to transform urban food systems, through local, regional and state policy. In her role, Esperanza works on policies that impact urban agriculture, land access and low capital start ups, healthy school meals and food justice. She works in deep collaboration with stakeholders across sectors and ensures community voice is an active part of policy development. Esperanza brings a focus in environmental health and social justice to her leadership.

Four Things to Consider When Starting A Mobile Food Business

mobile food business 4 things to consider

The first four things to consider when starting a mobile food business are:

  1. WHAT do I want to make?
  2. WHERE can I store and prep my food?
  3. WHICH kind of Mobile Food Facility do I want and what can I afford?
  4. WHERE in Oakland can I set up my Mobile Food Facility?

These four questions help answer each other and it may feel like you’ll be working on answering them all at the same time! You need to know what you want to make before choosing your MFF, where you can prep/cook the food and then clean and store your MFF.  For example, if you want a truck, but can’t get it approved where you’d like to sell, you may have to choose a cart instead. Understanding and getting your desired location approved can be tricky, so this is something you need to know BEFORE you purchase any equipment or start the entire permitting process.

For more information, click here to download the Food Hustle Guide: A Step-by-Step Instruction Booklet: How to Start a Mobile or Cottage Food Business in Oakland

Andrea Ozzuna On How She Grew Wooden Table Baking Co.

wooden table andrea quote

Andrea Ozzuna, owner and baker of Wooden Table Baking Co., grew up in Buenos Aires and learned how to cook from her grandmother.  Since there wasn’t much Argentinian food around when she moved to Oakland, that’s what she decided to make and sell.  After several years of hard work, her alfajores are currently available online and at more than 30 retail locations.

Why did you decide to start your business?

I always wanted to have my own business since I was at least 18 years old. I’ve always had it in me, but I guess it was dormant. The opportunity came when I got laid off a geology job in 2010. I knew working in an office wasn’t for me, but that’s all I knew. That’s when life took me to explore.  I realized having my own business was what I was meant to do. It makes me happy.

Describe the process of starting and growing your business.

I enrolled in the Women’s Initiative class to write my business plan. While taking the classes, I started making and selling alfajores made from my grandmother’s recipe. The business plan was for a coffee shop with alfajores sold in the cafe. I realized I needed a lot more money to start a coffee shop. I figured I had to start doing something until I got money for the coffee shop. I love making Argentinean food, so I started making alfajores and empanadas. After a little while, I realized I liked focusing more on one product so I picked the sweets! And that’s how everything started:)

I started selling to coffee shops in the San Francisco. I went to each coffee shop and left samples. From all the samples I left, some called me back and responded well to my product, so they were my first clients :)

I grew the business mostly by offering our alfajores to stores, giving samples, being persistent and respectful at the same time.

What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way?

It is very important to get advice and to surround yourself with friends who love you and support you.  Mistakes happen. We learn from them and move on.

Do you have any advice for small business owners who are just starting out?

Do what makes you happy. When things get hard, ask yourself: Would you do something else? If the answer is no, that’s a great sign you are on the right path. Work with integrity, be respectful of your clients and our helpers. Adapt to changes. Be open and listen.  And most importantly, enjoy yourself.