Oakland’s newest (and largest) mural, called Zero Hunger, stands 190 feet tall at the Marriott Hotel building at Broadway and 11th Street — towering over the traffic and passerby below — and exists as one of six like it in the country, each meant to put a spotlight on world hunger.
At almost twice the height of Great America's Gold Striker, California's tallest wooden roller coaster, Zero Hunger stands as an unignorable piece of public art. Featuring a smiling Black girl grasping a bundle of wheat (which is admittedly a head-scratching action to base the entire mural around), the internationally recognized artist behind the mural, Victor Ash, said he wanted the piece to make people happy — while also changing how the public sees hunger advertised in media.
"When you see pictures and advertisements of hunger, they are sad pictures," Ash explains to ABC7. "It was important to me to do something positive."
Since the pandemic began, Bay Area food banks and pantries have been pressed to the limit. Nonprofits like the SF-Marin Food Bank have seen an "unprecedented" amount of people asking for help feeding themselves and their families; at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano distribution sites, it wasn't uncommon to see elderly residents queuing up in long lines to wait for food donations earlier last year. (2020, as well, saw the rollout of local drive-thru food pantries — a response to contending with an uptick in food assistance, while also maintaining social distancing standards.)
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also viewed the mural as a symbol of the city’s moment to come out mighty after tumultuous past twelve-plus months.
"This incredible symbol will serve as a daily reminder to us about what our moment is about and what our work is going forward," Schaaf said of the mural. "And that is to ensure that everyone has decency. The basic needs to live: food, housing, and income. This is the work that we are here on this planet to do."
Those "basic needs" have long been on the forefront of Oakland's activism movements — chiefly among them being affordable housing and an essential income.
"And I thank you for choosing Oakland, as a place to put this symbol of this vision and determination, because I promise you that the people of this city, believe in every one of these goals, and will work, as we say in Oakland, hella hard, to make this a reality," Mayor Schaaf continued.
For those unable to see the mural IRL, download the Street Art Mankind app; you can view the mural through the app on your phone or tablet, and information will show up about world hunger when you click on "Zero Hunger."Though you can (and should) donate to the UN's hunger relief efforts, as with any bit of charity and activism: Start in your own backyard, then work outward.
And because we're still in the throws of the pandemic, food banks in the Bay Area are currently only taking monetary donations to mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Image: Instagram via @ed_eng_ca