In late 2020, we realized that a significant percentage of our members were food insecure. We spent the next few months figuring out how we could use our meal delivery capacity to make a difference. Many of the paths we explored did not pan out. After looking relentlessly for cooking partners, we eventually decided to launch a Free Meals program where we would be running our own kitchens and to fundraise for it. Shortly after this momentous decision, we fortuitously started talking to Berkeley Food Network about possible synergies: the impact of this meeting was momentous!
The first consequence of our accidental meeting was already very significant: BFN immediately started supplying most of the food we used in our free meals, mostly for no cost at all: it became possible for us to afford cooking many more meals! Even more important, though, we both became aware at the same time that our partnership could enable a joint grocery delivery program that would not have been possible to either partner alone: Berkeley Food Network could source and assemble grocery bags, while HelpBerkeley could source recipients and deliver.
The Berkeley Food Network (BFN) was founded in 2016 as an innovative, community-centered model for providing services to the food insecure residents of Berkeley, both housed and unhoused, in order to close documented gaps in access to food in Berkeley. In its first year, BFN created and strengthened a network of Berkeley and Alameda County organizations serving food insecure Berkeleyans in order to increase collaboration among those organizations. By January 2020, BFN’s network consisted of over 50 organizations.
BFN operates a food sourcing and distribution hub from its 9,500 square foot warehouse in West Berkeley. The hub is at the center of their work to end hunger in Berkeley and allows them to provide higher quality food, greater quantities, and more variety, including ample fresh foods, to all Berkeleyans who need food. Through the programs listed below, we provide both groceries and prepared meals for our city’s food insecure community members. We source culturally appropriate foods whenever possible to accommodate our clients’ food preferences and reduce waste.
BFN operates an on-site client choice pantry at the warehouse. They offer healthy shelf-stable foods, fresh dairy and produce, frozen meat, and frozen individually packaged prepared meals. The BFN warehouse pantry is open longer hours than other pantries in Berkeley in order to serve populations who find it difficult to attend existing pantry distributions. BFN also operates eleven mobile pantries in partnership with eight community organizations that serve individuals and families who experience food insecurity.
BFN provides 1,000s of pre-packed bags of produce and shelf stable groceries monthly to 35 partner organizations that provide services to vulnerable Berkeley and Albany residents, both housed and unhoused.
BFN facilitates donations from local grocery stores, restaurants, and urban farms through a robust recovered food program. They offer a convenient and accessible recovery facility with operating hours that match the needs of local businesses, and reduce the amount of edible food sent to landfill, thereby reducing greenhouse gases.
The Berkeley Food Network Hub Kitchen Project increases the supply of nutritious meals – both communal ready-made meals and frozen individually packaged and ready-to-heat-and-eat meals – available to food-insecure residents of Berkeley by taking advantage of surplus food from local commercial food businesses and farms.
We could not hope for a better partner!