By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group East Bay
A small food store backed by some big ideas opened Monday across from UC Berkeley, the product of a growing movement to change the way the world grows, transports and buys food.
The Berkeley Student Food Collective on Bancroft Way has just 650 square feet in a storefront, but it is packed with fruits, vegetables, coffee, canned goods, nuts and dairy products, among others.
In addition to selling food, the collective wants to change the way students buy and think about food. They think food should be grown as near to where it is consumed as possible, it should be organic, and those who grow it should be paid a fair wage.
It's as much about teaching sustainable practices as it is selling the food, said Yassi Eskandari, the cooperative's education director.
"We want to create a new paradigm in food," she said. "It's about getting food from responsible sources with the environment and social justice in mind." For example, all of the produce is 100 percent organic and has traveled no more than 150 miles to get there, Eskandari said.
In addition to selling such items as free-trade coffee, the collective is teaching a for-credit class on campus about sustainable food systems and is training students to take what they learn to the greater Berkeley community, she said.
Eskandari said the cooperative was able to get off the ground with about $150,000 in grants with a large one of about $90,000 from the Green Initiative Fund at
UC Berkeley, which funds projects that reduce the university's negative effects on the environment.
Eskandari said the store has a one-year lease in its current location across the street from the campus, but the group wants to have a permanent spot on campus.
"This is a prime location, but we're hoping to move on campus and become an institution, to become rooted on campus," she said.
To raise more money and awareness, the group is holding a Harvest Gala on Nov. 20 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley. It will feature music, food, a silent auction and speakers talking about food sustainability. For more information, go to www.foodcollective.org.