The Berkeley Food Network (BFN) was founded in 2016 as an innovative, community-centered network of agencies that provide services to the food insecure residents of Berkeley, both housed and homeless, in order to close documented gaps in access to food in Berkeley.
In its first year, BFN worked to develop and strengthen its network by increasing BFN membership to more than 40 organizations, hosting quarterly member meetings to raise concerns and share information, delivering trainings to member organizations, coordinating donated food deliveries among various member organizations, and laying the groundwork for a physical distribution hub.
This year, BFN is working to expand its coordination of network-level services by opening a physical distribution hub and food pantry, by partnering with advocacy organizations to deliver food to populations not reached by existing services, and by continuing to facilitate network-level collaboration to coordinate services for different populations and share best practices.
Food Sourcing and Distribution Hub
BFN is working to establish a food sourcing and distribution hub that will be at the core of our work to end hunger in Berkeley. We aim to provide higher quality food, greater quantities, and more variety, including ample fresh foods, to all Berkeleyans who need food. We’ll provide both groceries and prepared meals for our city’s homeless and marginally housed community members. We will source culturally appropriate foods to accommodate clients’ food preferences and reduce waste. BFN will operate an on-site client choice pantry offering healthy shelf-stable foods; fresh dairy, produce, and bread; frozen meat; and prepared foods. The BFN pantry will be open longer hours than other pantries in Berkeley in order to serve populations who find it difficult to attend existing pantry distributions.
We’ll help smaller food aid programs by transporting food to the places where people need food and expanding access to free food. And we’ll work to ensure safe food handling practices every step of the way.
Along with food from the Alameda County Community Food Bank, BFN will facilitate donations from local grocery stores, restaurants, and urban farms through a robust recovered food program. We’ll offer a convenient and accessible recovery facility with operating hours that match the needs of local businesses. In addition to improving access to healthy and delicious food for food-insecure Berkeley residents, BFN’s food recovery program will help Berkeley reduce the amount of edible food sent to landfill, thereby reducing greenhouse gases.
The Berkeley Food Network is piloting our Hub Kitchen Project in fall 2018. The goal of this project is to increase the supply of nutritious and complete meals, such as communal ready-made meals and individually packaged and ready-to-eat/heat meals, available to food-insecure residents fo Berkeley by taking advantage of surplus food from local commercial food businesses and farms. The food will be taken to some of our agency partners who will serve or distribute the food directly to their program participants. BFN is partnering with Bauman College, Replate, Daily Bread, and a corps of volunteers to operate the program.
To promote coordination and collaboration among our members, BFN holds Quarterly Meetings for our members. These meetings offer members a chance to share knowledge with others engaged in working with Berkeley’s food insecure individuals and families and to find ways to better coordinate services.
BFN offers 7 trainings a year on topics relevant to agencies working with the food insecure. Topics include client behavior management, safe food handling practices, clients’ civil rights, volunteer management, nutrition, culturally appropriate foods, and other topics requested by BFN members. Trainings are open to the public.
Awareness & Advocacy
We will promote awareness about local food insecurity and pursue advocacy at the state and local levels on issues that concern our agencies and the people we serve.
BFN will collect demographic information from its member agencies, and conduct research on hunger in Berkeley and on smart practices for working with food-insecure residents. We will share results with our members and any other interested organizations.
BFN Will Bring Diverse and Far-reaching Benefits to the City of Berkeley:
- Serving more food-insecure people more efficiently with more nutritious food; contributing to the health and wellbeing of Berkeley’s diverse residents; helping the housing insecure to remain in our community
- Reducing edible food in the waste stream — we will work on the principle of best use: useable food will go to people, less useable food will go to animals, then compost. We are already forming partnerships with organizations that can turn recovered food not fit for human consumption into animal feed.
- Lowering the carbon footprint of existing food distribution programs: We will also reduce our member agencies’ current carbon footprint by consolidating ACCFB deliveries to the food sourcing and distribution hub so that Berkeley agencies do not need to drive to the ACCFB, which is located near the Oakland Airport.
- Better food safety:We will work with our member agencies and City of Berkeley Environmental Health to ensure that they are using the best safe food handling practices.
- Opportunities for internships/job trainings with participants in Berkeley programs: We offer paid internships with on-the-job training to young adults living and attending school in Berkeley, with work opportunities in our warehouse, office, and pantry.
- Innovative model: BFN builds on Berkeley’s existing reputation for innovation. We will continually evaluate our model so that we can easily make adjustments and improve its potential for use in other communities. ACCFB sees the BFN as a replicable model.
- Fill existing data gaps on food insecurity and poverty in the city: BFN will be well positioned to collect data from our member agencies. We will provide extensive data about hunger and poverty in Berkeley to the City.