AASHE Student Diary Series: The Opening of a Sustainable Food Storefront
In this installment of the AASHE Bulletin Sustainability Student Diary series, members of the Berkeley Student Food Collective (BSFC) at the University of California, Berkeley give a behind-the-scenes look at the process of opening up their sustainable food storefront for the campus community. Diary contributors include BSFC members Ruby Yoon, Justina Byrne, Christina Oatfield, Adam Merberg, Bree O'Keane and Katherine Walsh. AASHE welcomes questions and invites feedback on each Sustainability Student Diary entry. Submit diary entries of your own for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 17, 2010:
A year and a half ago, a group of University of California, Berkeley students created a movement called the Berkeley Student Food Collective. The movement was initiated against a fast-food company that was trying to move onto the UC Berkeley campus. We proposed a student-run food collective that would provide fresh, healthy sustainable food as an alternative. We also sought to provide education on healthy sustainable food.
One of the biggest tasks of the Food Collective was fundraising enough money to have a viable and sustainable business plan. Most of our funds came from grants, notably receiving $91,000 from The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), a UC Berkeley fund available for campus sustainability projects. Fundraising events, such as our Annual Harvest Gala, and donations from individuals also contributed to finally gathering enough funds to open.
Another big part of establishing or storefront was finding a physical location. After considering options like a mobile food cart, and looking into several locations, we obtained our current space at 2440 Bancroft Way, right across the street from the UC Berkeley campus. The process of opening up the store was long and complex, especially for a group of students with no experience as entrepreneurs. Business plans, permitting, passing inspections, gathering volunteers, researching inventory, locating equipment, etc. was a huge task, but with countless hours of time and effort put into the project, it happened. The store had its grand opening on Nov. 15, 2010.
The store is definitely still a work in progress, but everyone involved is so ecstatic about our opening, the things that need to happen will happen. Our store is run by volunteers who work one two-hour shift each week and receive a 10 percent store discount. If you come into the store now (open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.), you'll find lots of fresh produce, grab-and-go lunch items like sandwiches and wraps, bottled beverages, bulk bins, staple grocery items, dairy, coffee/tea, etc.
The following is a chronological look (from the formation of the collective to the present) at some of the nitty-gritty details that went into the opening of our storefront.
With help from a $91,000 grant from The Green Initiative Fund, the Berkeley Student Food Collective (BSFC) is formed with the motto:
“We're dedicated to providing fresh, local, healthy, environmentally sustainable and ethically produced food at affordable prices to the Berkeley campus and greater community. We seek to educate students about nutrition and food systems, empower new leaders, and train youth to work in and manage a sustainable business. Through inclusive, democratic decision-making, we will operate a cooperative grocery market that promotes community-building and environmental stewardship.”
• Having already achieved nonprofit status, the BSFC works on documents for tax-exemption status.
• Grant applications are submitted to Tom’s of Maine, Organic Valley and Clif Bar in an effort to raise at least $250,000 to open a storefront.
• Negotiations with Naia Lounge (on-campus space) and for a site on Euclid Avenue fall through; BSFC re-evaluates its cost options and looks for alternative options to a storefront, including mobile carts.
• The BSFC holds the Harvest Gala, its first major fundraising event that features a silent auction, dinner and several speeches about sustainable and ethical food.
• Plans are made to sell food on campus on a weekly or monthly basis in spring 2010. An advisory board member offers to let BSFC prepare food in his commercial kitchen, and an intern is appointed to oversee the production and sale of food.
• After a presentation on its progress to the Berkeley Student Cooperative’s Board of Directors, BSFC signs a fiscal sponsorship agreement with the group.
• BSFC is notified that its storefront idea is a finalist for the Clinton Global Initiative University grant.
• With assistance from a graphic designer, BSFC finalizes its new logo for all future website and promotional materials.
• As part of its market research plan, BSFC sends members to count foot traffic and transactions at local eateries.
• BSFC prepares to sell sandwiches on campus and finalizes an agreement to prepare food in the kitchen at Blakes on Telegraph.
• BSFC is still exploring various possibilities for an on-campus location for its storefront. In accordance with a vote of the membership, BSFC researches the feasibility of a temporary or permanent food cart. Naia Lounge returns as a possible location.
• BSFC Policy Coordinator and ASUC Senator Christina Oatfield drafts an ASUC Senate bill to give the BSFC preferential treatment in the space allocation process. BSFC members plan to lobby the ASUC to pass the resolution with strong support.
• BSFC is designated as a supported project by Sustain Us with a recommendation to Clinton Global Initiative University Grants. The group also waits to hear about its grant status from Columbia Foundation, National Resources Defense Council, Growing Green Awards, Echoing Green and Rainbow Grocery. The group expects the Clif Bar Family Foundation to come to a decision on its application soon.
• BSFC members unanimously approve a motion to pursue a mobile kitchen. A group is assembled to negotiate with the university to allow the use of parking spaces in the lot near Sproul Hall, additional storage space on-campus, and to cooperate with its efforts to comply with permitting and licensing requirements.
• Three members of the Board of Directors represent the Berkeley Student Food Collective at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in Miami.
• The External Affairs Committee of the Berkeley Student Cooperative, BSFC’s fiscal sponsor, votes to endorse a continuation of the BSFC fiscal sponsorship agreement on similar terms. The agreement will be terminated in May 2011 unless BSFC receives tax-exempt status or begins operations before then.
• BSFC secures the assistance of the Alameda County Small Business Development at no charge. They assign a consultant with extensive experience with food businesses and nonprofits to work with BSFC to help its business run smoothly.
• ASUC Senate unanimously passes a resolution is support of the Berkeley Student Food Collective moving into an available space on campus.
• BSFC works on a proposal for a student-run garden to the university administration. The proposed garden will include both communal and individual plots that incorporate fruit trees, herb spirals, composting, a tool shed and a small amphitheater.
• BSFC raises $600 from its 12-hour Dance-a-thon.
• BSCF starts selling sandwiches at Sproul Plaza every Monday. Sandwiches include tofu banh mi, black bean burgers, chickpea burgers and red lentil patties. The group partners with other student organizations in an effort to improve its outreach.
• BSFC signs a lease on a storefront at 2440 Bancroft Way (formerly UC Nails) and moves in. The group begins converting the space to a grocery store right away, aiming for a mid-October opening.
• Due to limited funds, the group decides to phase out the program director position and hire a manager for its storefront.
• BSFC hires its former program director as a consultant for six weeks to help open the store, along with another consultant with extensive co-op grocery experience.
• As the current agreement is scheduled to terminate with the opening of its store, BSFC works on a modified fiscal sponsorship agreement with the Berkeley Student Cooperative that will allow continued donations after the storefront opens its doors.
• BSFC receives $2,500 from the Clif Bar Family Foundation. Grant applications are still pending with Organic Valley and Farm Aid. The group does not receive a grant from the Clinton Global Initiative University.
• The Berkeley Student Food Collective storefront officially opens!
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