Berkeley Student Food Collective considers expanding onto campus

Photo of the Berkeley Student Food Collective
Meghnath Dey/Staff
Through the proposed expansion, the Berkeley Student Food Collective hopes to provide increased support to students in need and educate the community on food systems and nutrition.

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The Berkeley Student Food Collective, or BSFC, a student-run grocery store, is considering expanding into the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

BSFC is currently operating in a small space off campus, according to BSFC executive director Jeff Noven. A grocery store on campus would help students access affordable food and grocery options, including food that can be purchased using CalFresh benefits, Noven noted.

However, despite a surplus of volunteer labor, increased food demands and space limitations make it difficult to offer the full services of groceries students need. These limitations forced BSFC to make difficult decisions as to which products it is going to sell and how to stock the store, Noven noted.

“With a larger space, (BSFC) would be able to serve as the full-service grocery store that our campus community needs and deserves,” Noven said

While an expansion into campus’ Bear’s Lair is not confirmed, it is currently being discussed, Noven added.

Chair of the BSFC Board Megha Krishnan, who used to work at The Daily Californian, added that leadership transition in the student union is one reason for the delay in moving into the Bear’s Lair.

“The Collective’s members have always sought to bring student governance and student organizing into the food system in a very tangible way, including by providing cheap, local and healthy groceries to a community that lacks a lot of other good options,” Noven said.

According to Noven, students most impacted by the food system should be the ones with the greatest say in that system. At this moment, BSFC is one of only a few grocery store close to campus on Southside that accepts Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, system, which means a full-service grocery store is “more urgent than ever,” Noven noted.

Krishnan said they hope the student union can see how the presence of the BSFC on campus can benefit the student body. They noted BSFC can create an environment of civic engagement and support education once it moves into the student union.

Noven added that expanding BSFC can help get students involved in BSFC leadership positions, further provide support to over 40% of students who are currently on government assistance and provide a sustainable source of healthy food.

“We are much more than just a grocery store; we are a hub to educate the community about food systems and nutrition, and to empower organizers and leaders,” Krishnan said in an email. “We believe our organization and campus could truly benefit from us moving to the Bear’s Lair.”

Lauren Cho is a student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected].

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated there is no grocery store close to campus on Southside that accepts EBT. In fact, the BSFC is one of only a few vendors close to campus on Southside that accepts EBT.