As I gaze down at our warehouse floor from the windows in my office, I am in awe of the incredible work I see happening below me: our capable warehouse staff keeping everything in order and running smoothly; our volunteers cheerfully doing whatever is asked of them; our shelves, refrigerators, and freezers full of healthy food; and our clients filling their shopping bags with the nourishing foods that work best for their households.
A year ago, we had no idea that not only would we be as busy in 2021 as we were in 2020, but that we would grow even bigger! This past year we:
- Went from feeding 5,000 people a week to nearly 6,500 people a week.
- Increased the number of partners in our food distribution work from 58 to 73.
- Grew our Food Recovery Program from rescuing nearly 35,000 pounds of excess food a month to nearly 60,000 pounds a month.
- Expanded our staff from 6 to 13.
But even better, we have been able to expand our programming and improve our work. We are now providing healthier food at all our distributions, including customized boxes for delivery to homebound folks with heath issues. We have built stronger relationships with local food producers, and we have implemented more efficient systems for our operations.
This beautiful activity is happening because of you, our dedicated supporters; because you care that everyone in our community is able to access healthy food and live active and productive lives. You have generously supported us with your volunteer hours and financial contributions, spread the word about BFN to your networks, and partnered with us in our sourcing and distribution work. We are so grateful for all the ways you have made it possible for us to ensure that no one in our community is left behind.
Yours in partnership to end hunger in our community,
Sara Webber, Executive Director
Providing a Fresh Bounty for the Holidays
Leveraging food recovery to boost healthy foods for the season
We are so grateful for our ever-growing Food Recovery Program, which allows us offer a bounty of seasonal foods to our clients. Through this program, we source a variety of seasonal produce, as well as grocery staples like eggs, bread, cheese, and meat throughout the year. We are now rescuing over 50,000 pounds of food each month, a whopping 485,407 pounds of food so far this year, the equivalent of over 400,000 meals for our community!
We want to make this holiday season special for our clients. Working with Frog Hollow Farms, we will be serving up delicious Warren Pears until the crop runs out at the end of the year. They are grown in Brentwood, CA, just 50 miles away from our warehouse, and are the perfect sweet treat this time of year. We will also be offering a variety of herbs, seasonal root vegetables, and bread through our food recovery sourcing.
Finally, our Hub Kitchen is hard at work making tasty, seasonal dishes, both savory and sweet, for our clients to enjoy, like sweet potato pie and comforting mashed potatoes and gravy. This year, our Hub Kitchen has already produced over 20,000 meals and we can’t wait for our clients to try these special holiday offerings. From our kitchen and warehouse to their tables, we are so glad to celebrate with them this season!
Partner Spotlight: Dorothy Day House
Leveraging expertise to best serve our community
At Berkeley Food Network, we believe that having an in-depth knowledge of the community we are serving is crucial to ensuring quality and respectfulness in service. By partnering with local organizations, like Dorothy Day House (DDH), we are able to work with experienced individuals to serve specific populations in a way that corresponds with their lived experience.
DDH and BFN have collaborated in a variety of ways to provide hot, prepared meals and grocery items to unhoused members of our community. At least twice a week you can see Patrick Neilley, the Dorothy Day House Food Service Manager, shopping in our BFN warehouse for shelf-stable goods and fresh produce to bring back to DDH to turn into hot, ready-to-eat meals to their clients. This shopping partnership has enabled them to increase capacity and output, and to service clients with healthier, more robust options.
BFN has been an incredibly important partner for Dorothy Day House. Frequent access to a wide range of fresh produce has drastically improved the quality and nutritional density of the meals we serve to the unhoused community in Berkeley. The BFN kitchen team has also helped us with increasing our capacity as we opened our new transitional housing program, Horizon Transitional Village. We love BFN!
– Patrick Neilley, Food Service Manager at Dorothy Day House
In addition to food items from our warehouse, we provide DDH clients with hot, ready-to-eat Hub Kitchen meals twice a week at DDH’s housing facilities. By providing these meals, we have been able to collaborate with DDH to reach more members of the unhoused community and provide nutritional support to those in need.
We are also fortunate to have DDH’s Procurement Manager, Bob Whalen, on our Board of Directors, where he can regularly bring his expertise about the needs of our unhoused community members as he participates in BFN’s programmatic decision making.
We are continually thankful for the deep, collaborative partnership that we have with DDH, and for the critical work we have accomplished in partnership to provide nutritional support to those people experiencing homelessness in our community. By combining their community expertise and our food sourcing power, we are able to amplify our organization’s impact in the community and ensure that both of us are closer to achieving our mission.
Molly and the importance of human connection and purpose
Like many of us, the onset of shelter-in-place orders in early 2020 threw Molly Vitorte for a loop: newly laid off from her job, she says “I was at home with nothing to do and going out of my mind!” Thankfully for her (and for BFN), she found her niche in volunteering. “It was so easy to sign up and it fulfilled my passions for food and working within the community.” Although Molly is once again employed these days, she continues to donate her time to BFN and credits her volunteer service with giving her a sense of purpose during uncertain times. “When I was unemployed, knowing someone was counting on me to be somewhere and to do something, and that I had a purpose, made all the difference to me at a really important time in my life.”
A 30-year resident of Berkeley, Molly earned her Ph.D from UC Berkeley in Latin American studies with a speciality in Human Rights, a passion that led her to BFN. “Human rights start with basic rights, and the right to food is a basic human right.” Over the past 18 months of volunteering, “I’ve learned an appreciation for food insecurity in Berkeley. Ever since moving here, I’ve been aware of and profoundly sympathetic to food insecurity and poverty in my community, but I’ve come to have a much deeper and much more nuanced understanding and appreciation of it.” Most important to Molly, however, are the human connections she has made. “You get to know people on a personal level. They bring their kids, they bring their dogs, they come on their bicycles, sometimes they come in cars. You get a flavor of their lives.”
Molly connects with clients over the range of food on offer, sharing excitement over organic, seasonal produce and donated goods from local food businesses. “I can say ‘we have artichokes today!’ Or fresh plums, or Meyer lemons.” Adding to the joy of new ingredients is Molly’s ability to pinpoint their origin, whether it’s from a local farm or a neighbor’s garden. “I take a lot of pride in sharing with our clients what we have to offer.”
Remarkably, Molly is just as thankful to be at BFN as we are to have her: “Being able to contribute to something meaningful, and to have a purpose in life meant everything to me. I just feel this immense gratitude to BFN for giving me that opportunity.” The feeling is mutual! We at BFN could not touch the lives of our neighbors and friends without the compassionate dedication of Molly and volunteers like her, and for their time and efforts we remain profoundly and eternally grateful.