By Ian Schragg
Amidst pouring rain and a thunderstorm during the evening of Nov. 20, members and volunteers of the Berkeley Student Food Collective (BSFC) set up for their second annual Harvest Gala at the David Brower Center downtown to fundraise for their organization. Despite the rainy weather, low ticket sales, and the loss of the axe to Stanford during the Big Game that morning, morale remained high as members prepped all day long to prepare for an evening of auctions, live performances, and a vegan feast prepared by members of the BSFC.
“Having the Gala at the David Brower Center contributed a lot to the evening because it’s a really impressive space” said volunteer Ruby Tumber. “There was an exhibit on display by artist Christ Jordan, but the finishing touches were definitely provided by the members.”
Members decorated the space with homemade painted jars of candles and autumnal leaves that adorned the silent auction area where attendees bid on highly sought after items such as tickets to the Marin Opera, sunset cruises in the Bay, as well as gift certificates to gourmet restaurants such Chez Panisse. Local beers and wines were served during the reception amidst piano performances and singing ensembles by members and volunteers. Food was prepared by members, adhering to the collective’s message of “fresh, local, sustainably grown food.” The four-course cornucopia included such dishes as butternut squash lasagna with greens and cinnamon baked apples with seasonal dried fruit.
Profits from the evening went directly to the Collective, which opened the doors of its storefront on November 15. After a long-anticipated opening, which was delayed due to permit authorizations, the BSFC has set up a food co-op in Berkeley—located conveniently across from campus on Bancroft way—the first such store since 1988, when the last one closed.
Opening day was deemed successful as students piled in the store to purchase locally grown fruits, freshly made sandwiches, free-trade coffee and other selected items that passed the high standards of the Collective. At one point, customers created a line that spanned the length of the store.
“I’m amazed and excited. We’ve been working on this for over two years, and it’s finally real,” said Finance Officer Kaela Colwell. “Preparations are so much more different than having people actually here.”
The Collective’s dream began over a year ago, when students created an uproar over the university possibly leasing campus space to a national food chain, Panda Express. The idea was ousted, and with funding from the ASUC through the Green Initiative Fund, members raised nearly $100K to create a place for students to not only purchase affordable, healthy, locally-grown and sustainable food (all part of the BSFC mantra), but to create an educational hub for the community to gain awareness of the Collective’s mission and goals related to production, sustainability, and access.
Early on, members of the Collective raised funds and awareness through selling sandwiches on Sproul, hoping to eventually raise enough money for a storefront. The idea of opening up a food truck was also thrown around until this summer when members were notified of an open lease on a space on Bancroft and decided to take the plunge. Members are hoping the idea will catch on in the Berkeley community, which is already well known for being progressive.
“There are a lot of new faces and a lot of interested people,” said Colwell. “A lot of curious people, and a variety of people, like non-students and older people, came because they support the mission of the BSFC.”