Interview with the Berkeley Student Food Collective

Image courtesy of the Berkeley Student Food Collective's Facebook.

BARE Reporter Polina Polishchuk had the special opportunity of interviewing Justina Byrne, an outreach coordinator for the Berkeley Student Food Collective and a Cal sophomore. The BSFC will open up a student-run food store on 2440 Bancroft Way across from Eshleman Hall on Monday, November 15.

What is the Berkeley Student Food Collective all about? How does it work? Who is it open to?
It's allllll about the food! Our organization was formed under the realization that there is basically no healthy, affordable food available to students on campus, and we really want to change that. Our store will be selling produce, dry goods, to-go lunches, bottled beverages, plus coffee and pastries. It will be cooperatively-run, meaning that it will be owned by all of the organization's members. We will have one paid employee (the Operations Manager), who will be in charge of the store's day-to-day operations. The rest of the employees will all be volunteers, with each volunteer doing one two-hour shift per week, and some membership incentives as repayment. Anyone at all can shop there! Our store is definitely not solely catering to students, and we're really hoping to get the entire community involved and excited with our project.

Is this a new type of system? If not, who are you modeling it after?
The idea of members each owning an equal share of an organization is not a new one (think about the co-op houses surrounding the campus). There are also many food co-ops across the nation, and there used to even be one in Berkeley many years ago. Being run by students, we are also borrowing many different aspects of our storefront after other student food coops, such as University of Washington's.

Some of the hungry students behind the collective. Image courtesy of their website.

Where will you be getting the food?
A lot of our food we will be getting through distributors, such as Palo Alto Egg and Veritable Vegetable, who source from the farmers and smaller companies. As for our prepared items, we plan on working with Tofu Yu, Super Fresh Foods, and others. We are trying to source all of our products from as many local companies as possible, so we are very lucky to be living in the area that we do!

In your opinion, how do you think this will benefit the community?
Providing healthier alternatives to the food that one normally finds around campus is a major benefit. In addition, we are all about the education side of our mission. Hopefully, the Food Collective can teach more of the community about the sustainable foods movement, and encourage people to really think about what they are putting into their bodies. We really want to bring the community together over something that we all share: a love for eating things that taste good, and are good for you.

Outreach and Publicity Coordinator, Ruby Yoon, munches on some baked tofu. Image courtesy of their Facebook.

Anything that you are particularly excited about?
Recently, I've been noticing more and more that I'll be on the south side of campus (and I live on the north side), and I just want something to eat that I don't have to feel bad about buying. Bring on the sandwiches, please!

Anything special/extra/random you wanna say to our readers?
This is kind of just a side note about the food that we're planning on selling: each of our products has to fit into at least one category of the Real Food Guidelines, which require food to be local, humane, fair, and ecologically sound. We're trying to have our food fit in as many categories as possible, but everything fits in at least one! Also, anyone who wants to get involved can email our membership coordinator, Hannah, at

Want to learn more about the Berkeley Student Food Collective? Watch this video made by CalTV.

Learn more about the Berkeley Student Food Collective by checking out their website, blog, or Facebook. Also, RSVP to their Grand Opening on Facebook.

Polina Polishchuk
BARE Reporter

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