According to the USDA, more than 23 million people in the United States live in a food desert—a census tract, normally a low-income one, where at least 500 people or 33 percent of the tract’s population reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store that offers affordable, healthy, fresh food options. Many of the residents of these neighborhoods also lack reliable transportation to get to a large store; faced with the option of not eating at all, they often turn to convenience stores, small corner markets and fast-food restaurants and end up paying higher prices for less-healthy options like fatty and salty processed foods.

Fortunately, the issue is not going entirely unnoticed. Take, for example, Brahm Ahmadi. Soon after Ahmadi moved to West Oakland after college in 2002 to do community organizing work, he realized something very important—the area was a food desert. So he took action, partnering with other entrepreneurs to found People’s Grocery, a nonprofit with a mission to “improve the health and local economy of West Oakland” through programs like The Mobile Market, a van that brings affordable, fresh groceries into underserved neighborhoods. Then, in 2010, the organization introduced the concept of a food market, café and social hall in the same neighborhood; after years of setbacks and hurdles, People’s Community Market is scheduled to open in 2018.

“The purpose of this project is to give the people of West Oakland the chance to have dignity, respect and equality through something that most communities take for granted: a grocery store,” Ahmadi says. “Our goal is to build community in West Oakland, enhance the health and quality of life of local families and empower them with knowledge about food and health.”