Student Food Collective Opens Grocery Store

Photo: The Berkeley Student Food Collective opened the doors of its new grocery store Monday. The store, located at 2400 Bancroft Way, will sell
Emma Lantos/Staff
The Berkeley Student Food Collective opened the doors of its new grocery store Monday. The store, located at 2400 Bancroft Way, will sell "local, humane, ecologically sound and ethically produced" food.

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After two months of moving, preparation, planning and fundraising, the Berkeley Student Food Collective opened a cooperatively run grocery store at its 2400 Bancroft Way location Monday.

The collective opened the store with the goal of providing "local, humane, ecologically sound and ethically produced" food to Berkeley students and residents, according to collective members.

Products sold in the store will all be "fair, environmentally sustainable, local and community-based and humane," in accordance with guidelines from the Real Food Challenge, an organization whose objective is to make campus food more sustainable nationwide, according to Program Director Bree O'Keane.

To be local, all produce in the store must come from farms within 150 miles of the storefront, she said.

O'Keane added that the collective works with Veritable Vegetable, a San Francisco-based organic produce distribution center, to obtain local produce. The tofu and beverages also come from local companies, she said.

"We like to be involved with the community as well as the students," said Ruby Yoon, the collective's outreach and publicity coordinator and a campus sophomore. "Especially since there's such a large support group of sustainable foods in Berkeley."

The storefront is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will be run by a paid operations manager and unpaid collective board members and general members. Members of the collective are required to put in five hours of volunteering per month in order to receive their 10 percent member discount at the store.

In addition to the $120,000 previously raised in grants and donations, the collective also received another $20,000 in funds through the UC Berkeley New Alumni Challenge in the past two months.

The collective is also putting on its second annual Harvest Gala event Saturday - with an organic dinner, open bar, live music and silent auction - to continue to raise funds to keep the store running, according to O'Keane, who added that the event raised $26,000 for the collective last year before they had even chosen a location.

"We hope to have a self-sustaining model," Yoon said. "It's going to be a huge learning process, and it's a pretty big guessing game at this point, but I think we have enough of a support system and enough people invested to be able to work it all out."

With a focus on educating the Berkeley community about food sustainability, guidelines from Real Food Challenge and values of the collective are painted on the storefront. Bulletin boards with information about sustainable foods and products with labels that show what food criteria each item meets are also inside the store.

"The city benefits when there's healthy choices for people to buy good-quality food, to the extent that it's locally grown and produced," Michael Caplan, the city's economic development manager said in an interview in September. "It helps the local economy, and provides better choices for local residents and students."


Hailey Parish is the lead local business reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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