A guide to the Berkeley Student Food Collective
Here’s the thing: I am a fourth year in an environmental-esque major and have heard so much about the brilliance of the Berkeley Student Food Collective — the amazing fresh food options, sustainable and equitable motives, and affordable prices.
Despite all that, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I do not use the Berkeley Student Food Collective (BSFC) nearly as much as I should. So I thought we could be brave and learn more about this place and student resource together, in the spirit of vulnerability and trying new things as one is encouraged to do during their time in college! Right? Right.
There definitely are a lot of different food options for such a small location, so be forewarned—it can be a bit overwhelming at first. But hey, don’t be afraid to ask questions and wander around looking a tad lost. Everyone there is so nice and welcoming, and will be glad to help you out. In the end, the BSFC was not quite as intimidating as I thought; there just too many goodies to choose from!
I walked inside, wandered a bit, and then introduced myself to the BSFC members working at the time. I met Layla, Leandra, and Kayhill, and asked them about their experience at BSFC, favorite part, and favorite food item.
- Their favorite part of BSFC was that not just students come in but also many families, GSIs, and other fun regulars that they get to interact with. Layla explained how the BSFC connects with the community and now is currently collaborating with The Food Pantry to teach cooking classes to kids and expand the BSFC Kitchen. Their favorite product is the chunks, like the carob and spirulina chunks, that you can buy in bulk.
- Leandra shared that they appreciate the Collective’s “Pay it Forward” program, where customers are able to donate however much they’d like, whether a dollar or five, and then that donation is pinned on the wall for someone to use when in need of food but are running a bit short. They think it is a very kind practice that BSFC does that promotes the grocery’s accessibility and affordability to the community. Leandra also shared that their favorite product are the flax seed bars.
- Kayhill explained that they enjoy that the Collective is all democratic, with various committees ran entirely by student members within the Collective. Their favorite products are the Tumeric Rebbl drink and all the Tofuyu products, especially the red quinoa sushi.
After speaking with the members, I continued wandering around and found that the BSFC has something for everyone (not just CNR vegans!) First, there is a large produce section from lettuces to apples, for those who need to pick up groceries after a long week but don’t have the time to trek to Trader Joe’s or Safeway or boba-lovers who need to swap out that third milk tea of the day with a piece of fresh fruit.
Additionally, in the morning they sell baked goods, bagels, Pebbles’ vegan donuts, and coffee.
Plus, BCFS also promotes sustainable shopping: they have a bulk dried goods section where you can fill a compostable bag, your own container, or one of their mason jars with chunks, dried fruit, or trail mix! There are also many products that the store provides that customers say they can’t find anywhere else, such as selected sustainable brands of toothpaste, mushroom hot chocolate, delicious candies, and the Diva Cup (hello sustainability!).
The BSC also has a refrigerated section, which is by far my favorite, filled with yummy grab-on-the-go goodies like lentil salad or the meals made from the BSFC Kitchen, and so many delicious milk and meat-alternatives like Forager and Rebbl.
What I Learned
The Berkeley Student Food Collective began in 2009 when students were protesting the university’s planned construction of fast food chains in Lower Sproul. As an alternative, they suggested the Food Collective, and through a $90,000 grant from The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), the BSFC was opened in November of 2010. The Berkeley Student Food Collective is more than just a grocery store: it is a non-profit, student-run, collective grocery store. The BSFC is “dedicated to providing fresh, local, healthy, environmentally sustainable, and ethically produced food at affordable prices,” and to “educat[ing] students about nutrition and food systems, empower[ing] new leaders, and train[ing] youth to work in and manage a sustainable business.”
The BSFC is entirely student-run; it consists of members of the Collective that are all student volunteers! The student leaders that are executives of committees have fiduciary responsibilities to stay on top of, as they are on the board of a 501c(3) non-profit (which is pretty impressive). BSFC members volunteer at the store 2 hours every week, attend membership meetings, and serve on one of the committees–IT, Finance, Policy, Education, Membership, Product, Food Prep, Strategic Partnerships, Events, Marketing, and Anti-oppression. Plus, members receive newsletters that provide updates on upcoming events, and receive a 10% discount at the Collective!
I learned that the Food Prep committee aims to reduce BSFC’s food waste by making ready to go meals from produce that is about to spoil. I found this admirable as the Food Collective not only promotes sustainability and smart consumption, but also practices what it preaches. They cook everything from banana pancakes to tofu stir fry, priced on a sliding scale between $1-5 (allowing you to pay only what you’re able to). Plus you can see what they make daily by following them on their Instagram @bsfckitchen!
More than just hippy CNR students.
Anyone can go whether or not you wear Birks. Everyone deserves the right to healthy, delicious, and sustainably sourced food, and BSFC is trying to make that more accessible to UC Berkeley students and the greater community.
Actually pretty good deals.
People were not exaggerating when they said the prices were good. I think the best deals are the bulk dried food items and the BSFC Kitchen items offered on a sliding scale. Locally-sourced and environmentally sustainable food can be more pricey, but BSFC does a pretty good job compared to other similar stores in making their offerings as affordable as possible. It may be a bit more expensive than McDonalds or Safeway, but allows you to make choice regarding your consumption.
The BSFC has many unique and tasty items that are locally sourced, environmentally sustainable, and both vegan and non-vegan that you can’t find at many other places! Plus, the meals that the Food Prep committee cook are absolutely delicious!
Doing good work.
BSFC aims to supply healthy, sustainable, local, and affordable food to students and the Berkeley community. It is run by students that are trying to both supply good food and educate others!
I did my research so now hopefully you are excited to check it yourself! Go visit and support the Berkeley Student Food Collective on 2440 BANCROFT WAY #102, BERKELEY, CA, 94704! Also, don’t forget to like them on Facebook @BerkeleyStudentFoodCollective, and follow them on Instagram @bsfckitchen.