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hi. My name is Veronica and I started this project as a way to provide food to people in Oakland, Berkeley, Albany and El Cerrito 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 for a lot of different reasons. I had been designing it in my head for a few years. Then there was the election in 2020 and we were in a pandemic and everything felt so stressful. I just wanted to do something. So in October 2020, right before the Biden / Trump election we talked to our neighbors and asked them if it was ok, and we started this project. It was a huge success. We gave out massive amounts of food every day, and it was all based on the Honor System. People started to come every day. It was a thing. It had a life of it's own and I realize now as I write about it, that I really put my heart and soul into it. 


Thank you to all of our neighbors who took the time to drop food off, shared food from their fruit 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 one of the things I miss the most. I just could not keep up with the amount of work that was required to keep it clean and stocked. Having it be open 24 hours a day was just not sustainable. So I would do it differently next time. 

A huge thank you to Colleen F.  Your generosity helped us establish trust with everyone. You ordered and gifted thousands of bags for the bread and you sent us tons of food that we would put out and it would be gone in a half hour. Thank you to Suzanna on Virginia Street, Thank you to Kai for all the times you waited in line at ACME, Thank you to 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, we 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 BOMBAS socks, fresh produce, coffee beans, hygiene supplies and shelf stable food over the years.  The dollar value of what was given away in 3 years was over $80,000.

What I learned:


Mutual aid 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 if there are 4 people who are taking care of it and each person is responsible for one week- to check the pantry multiple times, to clean it and stock it. 


Ultimately, I realized that this project would work best if we opened it at specific times and made it a Pop Up. It might need to be on wheels. Working with food is tricky, because it goes bad quickly. Making sure everything is fresh is a number one priority.


After doing this, I realized that the goal was to feed as many people as possible and make sure the food is distributed evenly. You just cannot do that if it is open and unsupervised. If someone is in real need, they will take everything. It is human nature.


I still believe that we can be creative in how we redistribute food. Especially food that is going to be thrown out and end up in the dumpster. Find a way to get food to people in your neighborhood who need it. I tried it out as an experiment, and it really thrived in so many ways. It was quite amazing!


If you are inspired to do a DIY pantry, please get in touch with me! I support you. 

– Veronica

Read the article about our food sharing project in Berkeleyside

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