This semester, I had the opportunity to intern with UC Berkeley Basic Need Center’s Food Pantry, which acts as an emergency food resource for students, staff, and people in the campus community. I assisted with setting up for and bagging groceries during open hours, when pantry visitors point at an assortment of fresh produce, canned goods, and pantry staples that they want to be bagged. I also participated in picking up recovered meals from campus dining halls and repackaging them into single serving containers for visitors to take, as well as picking up produce orders and receiving bakery and grocery donations. Given that 39% of undergraduate students report having experienced food insecurity as of 2020, the food pantry provides a needed food resource that is both physically and financially accessible due to its location on campus. Visit basicneeds.berkeley.edu for more information about the work of the Basic Needs Center!
The students of Experiential Learning through Food Systems do impactful and thought-provoking work. This semester, I had the honor of working on a project that will help share their stories and hopefully inspire others. The most digestible way to do this was as a series of short videos.
My semester’s journey with food has shown me ways I can continue creating positive impacts for the larger campus community. In the recent months, I have been facilitating a student-lead food justice class at UC Berkeley as well as working as an intern for the Basic Needs Security Team. Working on two different projects has exposed me to levels in the food systems I have never seen before. In seeing the interconnected parts of the campus foodways first-hand, my gratitude for the volunteers, workers, and families involved in this truly world-wide network grew stronger. Most importantly, this semester’s journey with food has taught me about the power of community and how our connection to each other is the only way we can combat the oppressive food systems we live in today.
This semester I have been helping manage a research plot at the Oxford Tract with a group of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as UC Berkeley faculty. The research plot is being used to examine the effects of different urban farm soil management techniques, specifically no-till farming versus till farming and the utilization of cover crops versus no cover crops on soil characteristics and crop yield. The goal of the study is to produce tangible research results in a form that is accessible and useful to urban farmers, especially those residing in the East Bay.
The Food Pantry is relatively new to the university and there are still many that do not know about it. I personally did not know about it until my second semester of my third year even though it was located in the basement of my workplace, which I have been working for almost a year. The Food Pantry is a collection of humble efforts and altruistic and kind students who volunteer their own time and efforts to help others.
The Food Pantry also provides food at no cost for students who are food insecure. Once I got involved with the Food Pantry, I was given a project to lead and at the beginning, I was extremely cautious and overwhelmed by the amount of pressure. Yet, what I learned was that if you have the inspiration and the effort, just jump right in and everything will work out fine and beautifully.
This past semester I was fortunate enough to work with the Basic Needs Team at Cal that strives to bring awareness to the issues of food insecurity, housing insecurity, and financial aid across all UC campuses. My specific work was dedicated to food and housing insecurity and was split up with across two organizations: The Food Pantry and the Curriculum & Programming Team. Throughout the semester my knowledge of these topics expanded and I had the opportunity to practice spreading awareness and volunteering for the cause.