Local food collective looks to bounce back from theft

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The Berkeley Student Food Collective launched a fundraising campaign Tuesday after several thousand dollars were stolen from the organization in December.

The collective, which operates a nonprofit, volunteer-run grocery market near campus, hopes to raise $5,000 through the campaign by the end of the semester. The fundraising effort is being hosted on the online crowdfunding platform GoFundMe and has so far collected nearly $1,000.

The money, which was taken from a deposit envelope in the storefront, represents 160 hours of volunteer time, according to Megan Svoboda, the organization’s operations manager.

“I think the most powerful thing about the money that was taken was the amount of hard work and volunteer labor it represents,” Svoboda said. “When the money was stolen, so was a lot of time.”
Along with providing affordable and local food to the Berkeley community, the collective seeks to educate students about nutrition, food systems and sustainable business.

The funds from the GoFundMe campaign will allow the collective to recover the losses from the theft and expand its existing educational programming, according to Root Barrett, one of the organizers of the fundraising effort.

For Barrett, the campaign has already demonstrated the strength that surrounds cooperative communities.

“The theft was a pretty big loss for us, especially as an organization that strives to be a community resource,” Barrett said. “But we almost immediately realized that this was an opportunity to come back stronger and turn to our community for support.”

The collective is operated by approximately 150 volunteers per semester, many of whom are UC Berkeley students, according to Barrett. Both the store’s volunteers and customers are composed of undergraduate students, graduate students and community members.

Each volunteer with the collective begins his or her work in the storefront before moving on to other tasks, including finance management, education and more. The volunteers’ time spent in the storefront gives the organization’s members a strong connection to the space, Barrett said.

While the fundraising campaign has largely been conducted online, the collective will continue to reach out to its customers and other community members in person and through the storefront.

“It’s an amazing thing about the network that surrounds cooperatives,” Barrett said. “People will always turn out for you when something like this happens.”

Chloee Weiner is a news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @_chloeew .