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hi. My name is Veronica and I started this project as a way to provide food to people in the east bay who are struggling with food insecurity. I invited my neighbors to contribute to the pantry and I reached out to local businesses who had extra food and bread and this food pantry experiment ended up being a three year thing.

 

I started it mainly because I hate food waste. And I wanted to share fruit off of trees in my yard in a way that would be inviting. Leaving a bunch of figs, or pears or apples or pineapple guavas on the ground in a box does not work. You have to elevate the food. Put it on a shelf.

 

So this project was born. And I learned a lot by doing it. It was in operation for three full years and we closed in October 2023. What's crazy is that 6 months later (it's almost May now) people are still leaving stuff there. It was like a beacon. I was pretty blown away by how mutual aid projects can actually work. Sure, there are problems but ultimately people want to help people if you make it easy for them to do that. This is a long story. It might be boring to you. But maybe not if you are thinking about starting a food pantry. I would do it again... just differently.

 

Thank you to all of our neighbors who took the time to drop food off, shared food from their trees and gardens and volunteered by picking up bread at ACME every Wednesday. Your generosity had a ripple effect. The pantry became a point of contact for us to all connect with each other, and that's the part that I miss the most. 

A huge thank you to Suzanna on Virginia Street, Kai, Elin and Henry on Rose Street, ACME bakery, Berkeley Food Network, Berkeley Food Pantry, STARTER bakery and Berkeley Free Clinic for donating thousands of dollars of socks and food. 

How did it work? 

Since it was open 24 hours a day, our food pantry filled the gaps in the food system. It was a place people could go to get food when all other food banks were closed. People came at all hours of the day. I would see cars stopping at 10pm, and lots of people in the morning and throughout the day. 

 

Who used the food pantry?


Seniors on a fixed income, single moms & dads, nannies, day laborers, high school kids, people who are in between jobs, people who are living in their cars and folks who are experiencing homelessness. Lots of people came by bike. We would see the same people come in their cars. It became a destination and a reliable source of food.   

We built trust with the people who used the pantry every day. They knew that all the food there was safe. Anything that was not in good condition was removed. I loved that people would bring food from their gardens, and fruit trees.

We gave out $300 of ACME bread every week for 3 years, BOMBAS socks, fresh produce, coffee beans, hygiene supplies and shelf stable food over the years.  The dollar value of what was given away is close to $80,000. That is a lot of savings for everyone! 

What I learned: Mutual aid only works if there is a group of people who are actively caring for the project on a regular basis. I think a project like this would work best on a kibbutz, where everyone knows each other and supports a real world activity of public food sharing and preventing food waste. Then the resource would truly be for those who needed it, and it would be tended to and cared for collectively.  I also learned that this project would work best if we opened it for specific times, which would mean it would need to be on wheels. It would be more of a Pop Up than a permanent installation. The goal was to feed as many people as possible and make sure the food is distributed evenly. 

– Veronica

Read the article about our food sharing project in Berkeleyside

Berkeleyside
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