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Castlemont Oakland


Compared to the rest of Alameda County, more babies in the Castlemont neighborhood of Oakland are born premature or with low birth weights. One in four residents (and one in three children) live in poverty, and there is limited economic opportunity in the neighborhood. At the same time, there are many organizations and residents in Castlemont who want to see their community change for the better. That’s why the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided initial funding to Castlemont as one of the first three Best Babies Zones.


BBZ Castlemont is led by the Alameda County Public Health Department’s (ACPHD) Building Blocks for Health Equity Unit, in partnership with Youth UpRising, Castlemont High School, Lotus Bloom, and First Five Alameda County and others.


  • Work with local entrepreneurs to build a vibrant local economy by establishing a monthly First Saturday Market.
  • Develop solutions to issues that matter to the community by engaging resident leaders and creating leadership opportunities.
  • Support projects that align with neighborhood priorities by providing mini-grants to residents and partner organizations.
  • Give support to parents and families through home visits for new families, regular gatherings for moms, and parent education, and an early childhood hub in the community.


One of BBZ Castlemont’s most successful programs has been the monthly First Saturday Market. The program is an example of Best Babies Zone at work: first, the community residents identified their priorities, next, they took action, and as an end result, the babies, mothers and families prosper.

“Our first market was December 1, 2013. We had one vendor and it was raining so no one showed up…but we were not going to be deterred. By the end of 2014, we had 20 vendors and we had 400 attendees.”

The Saturday market has become a neighborhood centerpiece, providing a place for people to gather and get to know one another—something the community lacked before. Running in tandem with the market are swim clinics and a Play Date program, both sponsored by BBZ mini-grants.

The Play Date is a space for kids to play and parents to connect with other families. An instant success, it now reaches 500 residents.

“The Play Date has grown so much, they need to rent a space to store all the toys collected,” Building Blocks for Health Equity Unit Manager,  Jessica Luginbuhl said. “Hundreds of kids came out last year … there’s been such an influx of energy.”