You don’t see them, but they’re there: a network of overlapping, community pathways that wend their way through Ashland, Cherryland, and beyond. These new pathways were shaped by strategic investments in economic development, youth empowerment, fitness, farms, fresh food, jobs for justice-involved residents, behavioral health services, murals, festivals, food hubs, youth centers, chambers of commerce, sports facilities, and much more. The pathways carry residents from newly created starting points, like a state-of-the-art soccer park or an affordable commercial kitchen for local food vendors, and lead them to brighter, healthier, safer, more financially secure futures.
These numerous, intertwining community pathways are the result of a revolutionary approach to public safety called Community Capitals Safety Framework, created by Marty Neideffer, who retired this month as Captain from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) after nearly 26 years of service.
Marty, a life-long resident of the Ashland area, recognized that traditional methods of policing weren’t sufficient to repair the community’s deeply entrenched challenges. Decades of neglect and disinvestment created barriers that fueled drastic increases in poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, chronic disease, and mental and behavioral health crises. Marty set out on a journey to improve policing at ACSO and change the system from within, to better support the people it is built to serve.
In 2004, Marty was a Sheriff’s deputy working as a school resource officer. Together with his colleague Hilary Bass, a new nonprofit organization was launched - the Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League (DSAL), to work alongside ACSO to deploy fresh, evidence-based practices to improve public safety.
Their new way of addressing neighborhood challenges coalesced into an overarching vision that integrates multiple disciplines, including community development, creative placemaking, evidence-based practices in reentry, community-oriented policing, and violence prevention to fill the voids left by disinvestment.
Upon his promotion to Captain in February 2016, Marty was placed in charge of ACSO’s expanded Youth and Family Services Bureau (YFSB). Under Marty’s leadership, YFSB and its innovative Crime Prevention Unit deepened ACSO’s commitment to behavioral health and worked to transform the principles and structure of law enforcement in the County’s unincorporated neighborhoods. Marty atomized Sheriff’s deputies into the community through countless hours invested in building soccer parks and a boxing facility, hosting events, participating in community meetings, establishing Learning Hubs for low-income youth, and donating healthy food to those in need during the pandemic.
The Community Capitals Safety Framework has been recognized locally and nationally as a groundbreaking approach demonstrating that everyone—residents, local government, businesses, and the nonprofit sector—has a role to play in improving policing and public safety. The initiative works by eliminating silos and uniting disparate agencies and organizations around strategic investments in the seven “community capitals” a community needs to thrive, including human, cultural, built, financial, natural, social, and political capital.
While it is impossible to measure Marty’s positive impact on the community, a recent report captures the Community Capitals Safety Framework's impact during just one year, including:
436,814 meals delivered to food-insecure families during the pandemic
$116,000 in scholarships awarded to local, low-income entrepreneurs
52,017 Recipe4Health, food-as-medicine prescriptions delivered to 18,352 County health clinic patients
2,878,572 lbs. of food recovered from the waste stream and delivered to residents
103 justice-involved community members provided with on-the-job training at Dig Deep Farms
More than 100 youth participated in DSAL’s Boxing Academy
More than 240 youth participated in the Sheriff's Futbol Club
Nearly 2,000 youth participated in DSAL’s Recreational Soccer League
12 new public murals were created to engage youth, stimulate economic activity, and improve public safety
Five new recreational facilities were built, including Neideffer Fields, named in recognition of Marty’s incalculable contribution to the community.
The idea that public safety is not simply a matter of arresting and incarcerating people is still a radical idea in law enforcement, and changing the system is a constant, uphill battle, but Marty embraced the challenge. He charted a new pathway, and many of his efforts–such as investing in the creation of an equitable, circular, local food system–are just beginning to gain traction.
Thanks to Marty’s decades of hard work, the Community Capitals approach to public safety is here to stay, as is his contribution to the conversation about what public safety is and what communities need to thrive.
Akiesha Barnes is DSAL’s Athlete of the Month
DSAL Boxing Academy participant Akiesha Barnes is DSAL’s April Athlete of the Month.
According to Coach Mickey, "Akiesha is very soft spoken and until she puts on her hand wraps and her gloves and then her alter ego comes out. She participates in both the boxing and the kickboxing classes, and in the one-and-a-half years she’s been training, I can see her growth in spirit, mind, and body. She makes me proud!”
“It's been a great learning experience, and the coaches are top tier,” said Akiesha. “Each one of them brings their own unique experience, style, passion, critique, and guidance. The workouts are dynamic and require you to show up daily ready to commit and lock into physical and mental discipline. Walking into the DSAL Boxing Academy every day means leaving stronger and more skilled than on arrival!”
Crisps & Crackles is DSAL’s Featured Business of the Month
DSAL supports local small businesses in a variety of ways, including grants, tailored one-on-one consulting services, pop-up opportunities at Eden Night Live and other community events, and affordable leases at the Dig Deep Farms Food Hub’s commercial kitchen and small business incubator.
This month, we’re pleased to feature Crisps & Crackles. The business was founded by Rubelet Domingo, who developed the idea when she had difficulty finding healthy snacks for a family member who was diagnosed with diabetes.
Crisps & Crackles produces bittermelon, mungbean, and moringa vegetable chips, which contain prebiotic fiber that helps promote good digestive health. The chips are vegan, gluten-free, low calorie, and low in salt. Crisps & Crackles uses real vegetables, so you can feel good about snacking!
Dig Deep Farms co-directors speak at the Ecological Farming Association (EcoFarm) Expo
Dig Deep Farms Co-directors, Troy Horton and Sasha Shankar, joined Dr. Steven Chen, Chief Medical Officer of Alameda County Recipe4Health, earlier this year at EcoFarm’s annual conference to discuss how healthcare systems are integrating with local agriculture as the $3.9 trillion healthcare industry (finally) begins Investing in healthy food as a form of treatment. The panelists shared lessons from Alameda County’s unique Recipe4Health model, which uses "Food Farmacies" to connect local farms, health coaching, and patients accessing care at urban Alameda County health clinics.
Founded in 1981, EcoFarm facilitates an exchange of knowledge and resources to advance just and ecological farming and food systems. The EcoFarm Conference is the oldest and largest organic farming conference West of the Mississippi.
DSAL joins expert Food as Medicine Roundtable convened by Congressmember Barbara Lee and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra
ACSO Sr. Program Specialist Hilary Bass joined a panel of experts to share insights from Alameda County’s comprehensive food-as-medicine initiative, called Recipe4Health, with national leaders, including Congressmember Barbara Lee and Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra.
While the food-as-medicine approach is gaining traction, little attention has been paid to where the food comes from and how sourcing sustainably grown produce for food-as-medicine programs has the potential to become a force multiplier for health.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee has directed Health and Human Services to implement a National Food as Medicine pilot that is modeled after Recipe4Health with its focus on connecting healthcare demand for food to the agriculture supply and sourcing of organic and regenerative food and to do so with equity at the center. It is important to remember that organic and regenerative farming is guided by Native American approaches to agriculture.