To tackle food insecurity, the city of Berkeley has several establishments that provide groceries to those in need of assistance.
Located on Sacramento Street in Berkeley, Homemade Cafe has started their own program named “Everybody Eats,” which serves a free meal to those in need.
Collin Doran, the current owner of Homemade Cafe, grew up in Berkeley and has been working at the restaurant on-and-off for 20 years. Doran bought the cafe from the original owners around 12 years ago and had begun to notice people panhandling in the area, asking for money and food from customers.
“I just started telling any one of them that if they ever were hungry, instead of panhandling, just ask us and we would gladly feed them,” Doran said. “We did that for years, just unofficially — it wasn’t a program or anything.”
The issue of food insecurity became more present during the pandemic when Doran began to see a large percentage of people in the neighborhood asking the establishment for meals. The restaurant wasn’t performing well financially at the time, but with support from the customers and community — not just for the food but for their cause and impact on the community — Homemade Cafe was able to reach their goal and recover.
In light of the experience, Doran decided to make it an official program, along with giving customers the opportunity to contribute $5 at the end of their meals to feed an individual in need.
There are other establishments in the area providing similar services, including Berkeley Food Pantry, Berkeley Food Network, Phillips Temple Church, Manna From Heaven Food Pantry, Mercy Brown Bag, Alameda County Community Food Bank, Food Not Bombs in People’s Park, McGee Avenue Baptist Church and UC Berkeley’s Bear Pantry for students. Berkeley Public Library has published a full list of groups that provide food for individuals in need on the Berkeley Information Network.
According to Dharma Galang, director of the Berkeley Food Pantry, about 8% of Alameda County experiences food insecurity. Organizations like the Berkeley Food Pantry have partnered with the Alameda County Community Food Bank and local grocery stores to provide more nutritious foods from excess grocery produce to clients. The Berkeley Food Pantry is also planning on expanding access to its services and its home delivery program.
“We’re not only here just to create good food and serve people, but we really do enjoy and value giving back to the community and trying to help as many people as we can,” Doran said. “My hypothesis or hope is that by trying to do more positive things within your community here, not only will the community respond and help you, but also frequent your establishment more, kind of becoming greater than the sum of the parts.”