Convenience stores and fast food restaurants are rightly named, as they provide both convenience and fast, ready-to-eat food to their consumers. But these chains often lack the genuine customer care and client loyalty that constitutes the meaning of community within a city. Passing by your nearest large commercial store, you won’t see the owner of the company writing personalized notes to clients or handwriting price labels for each item. Though it may be tempting to purchase a quick mass-manufactured snack from your nearest convenience store, buying from local businesses leads to more environmentally conscious food networks, self sustainable city economies and, most importantly, a sense of community and belonging for the consumer. To that end, here are some ways you can give back to your community by supporting local businesses.
Volunteer at the Berkeley Student Food Collective
The Berkeley Student Food Collective epitomizes the aforementioned values of community, self sufficiency and environmental awareness. At this volunteer-run grocery store, each volunteer is granted partial ownership of the Berkeley Student Food Collective. The volunteers gain voting privileges in vital decisions such as changing food suppliers or starting new community initiatives such as “Sliding Scale Wednesdays,” in which customers pay what they can for the item of the day. Rather than purchasing products from large vendors, the Berkeley Student Food Collective spreads awareness of businesses run by small organizations, such as Full Belly Farm and Veritable Vegetable.
Spend your meal points at Brown’s
Brown’s is like the Beyonce of campus dining. The food isn’t served by the glob from a heated steel container as it is at Crossroads. Instead, it’s prepared fresh daily by skilled employees. The kitchen is also conveniently located right behind the register, separated only by a transparent glass barrier. This allows hungry students to see how their food is being prepared. Best of all, Brown’s commits itself to serving food locally grown, milled, preserved and processed within 250 miles of the UC Berkeley campus. Also, it offers predominantly vegetarian and vegan-friendly foods.
Visit the local farmer’s market on weekends
The Ecology Center hosts farmers’ markets around Berkeley on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Although the locations vary, the Ecology Center promotes small-scale farmers who practice sustainable agriculture. Because the vendors are constantly changing, residents of Berkeley can attain an assortment of goods that are locally grown, fresh, delicious and affordable.
Stock up on stickers
A free way of promoting local businesses is to display their logos on your personal items. When you’re studying at the library, Caffe Strada or any public place around the city, people will notice an unfamiliar logo on a sticker and wonder what business it’s associated with. If they’re brave enough, they will ask you about the business after seeing your sticker!
Contact Lauren Ahn at [email protected].