Frequently Asked Questions - Food Pantry

Food Pantry

Where is the food pantry?

  • For the first couple weeks of the Fall 2022 semester, the pantry is hosting pop-ups on the 1st floor of the MLK Student Union. This space will soon become our Basic Needs Welcome Center!

  • Starting September 12th, our full schedule will begin and the pantry will be in our renovated BNorth space! This is on the bottom floor of the MLK Student Union, but you will have to check in on the 1st floor before heading down.

How does the food pantry work?

  • The pantry operates on a self-assessed, need-based basis. You are welcome to come up to once per week, take as much as you need while being mindful that the food pantry is a shared community resource for emergency food needs

  • There are no eligibility requirements for using the pantry. 

    • All you need is your Cal ID or Cal ID # (if you don't have your physical card yet).

  • We offer items such as rice, pasta, milk, cereal, freezer items, and fresh produce!

  • The food pantry is run by students and couldn’t stay open if it weren’t for the 100+ volunteers who support it. The pantry serves thousands of people every month!

How does the virtual line work?

  • Before you arrive in-person, you must join the virtual line. It will open when the pantry opens.

  • This virtual line is replacing long physical lines that used to wrap around the building. By joining on your phone, computer, or our on-site kiosk, you can be in line without physically being here! The virtual line gives you the opportunity to do other things without losing your spot, and allows students or staff with busy schedules to still access our community emergency food resource.

  • Use the button that says "Click Here to Join the Virtual Line Before You Arrive"  on our website: pantry.berkeley.edu, or come visit our kiosk at the BNorth entrance on the 1st floor of the MLK Student Union.

  • Once you’ve signed up, you should receive a text message informing you about your estimated wait time. You will also receive another text when it is close to your turn. Once you receive a text saying “you have reached the front of the line,” please check in at the front desk near the BNorth entrance of the Student Union, this is the one closest to the Cesar Chavez Student Center on the 1st floor.

Do I need to bring my own bag?

YES! We ask that you bring your own reusable bag if you have one, but if you do not, we can provide one while supplies last.

Who can use the Pantry?

The pantry aims to serve any UC Berkeley student or staff in need of emergency food assistance. The only qualifying criteria is a Cal ID, which we ask users to scan as part of our “checkin” process.

However, we do sometimes see members of the community who are not directly affiliated with the university coming in for food assistance. Our official policy is that no one is turned away, though we do aim to redirect non-UC Berkeley affiliated visitors towards resources that are intended for Berkeley and Bay Area community members, like the Berkeley Food Network Food pantry.

How often can I access the pantry?

  • Visitors are welcome to come up to once per week. 

  • You do not have to come to the pantry on the same day every week, you can come to the pantry whenever it works best for your schedule.

  • If you consistently need to visit the pantry more than once in a given week, we would highly recommend that you find out if you qualify for additional food resources. Since we serve such a large community we cannot accommodate multiple visits in a week, unless you have a specific need, such as you can only take a couple of items on your bike.

    • CalFresh, a monthly food benefit, could be a great option for you! 

To learn more, please visit our website or schedule an appointment to get assistance with the CalFresh application. If you are not able to qualify for CalFresh, we encourage you to utilize community resources.

Who runs the pantry? Are they staff or volunteers? Can I volunteer/be hired?

The pantry is run by 100+ student volunteers and managed by about 10 student staff, with support from Basic Needs full time staff.

Student volunteers are recruited at the beginning of each semester, with the expectation that they will attend a training and several shifts each week. They also have the option of taking on an hour of committee work each week and earning one unit for the Ethnic Studies program (ETHSTD 197) per 45 hours of volunteer work.

Any student can apply to be a volunteer, with priority given to returning volunteers and new volunteers selected based on scheduling needs. Volunteers are usually only recruited at the beginning of each semester; though if more are needed, in the past they have been added to the schedule throughout the semester.

If students and community members would like to volunteer but can’t/don’t want to commit to a weekly shift, we encourage them to reach out to us via email to come on a drop-in basis and help out as often as they like.

Additionally, to alleviate our student volunteers during RRR & Finals Week, we modify our schedule and ask parents and community members to sign up to staff the pantry for those two weeks.

Our student staff are hired as current leads and ambassadors graduate/move on to other roles; for the food pantry. 

Where does the food come from?

Some items are purchased and other items are donated.

We order nonperishables from the wholesale supplier UNFI, and ACCFB (Alameda County Community Food Bank). We order produce from ALBA Farmers and Daylight foods, but we also get some of our produce from Berkeley student Farms!

Bread, some dairy items, produce, prepared food/prepackaged meals, and miscellaneous nonperishables are donated by businesses and community members. Some donations are consistent and others are sporadic, and they often vary semester-to-semester. 

Produce is donated from neighbors' trees, grocery stores (like Monterey Market in North Berkeley or Berkeley Bowl), and community farms and gardens (like Gill Tract Community Farm or Clark Kerr Garden). It is delivered by volunteers or picked up by our food recovery team. Some of our produce and nearly all bread and pastries are delivered by volunteers associated with the Bay Area nonprofit Daily Bread. They also often accommodate donations of dairy and eggs from grocery stores like Berkeley Bowl. We also receive regular donations of excess food from our dining halls and campus restaurants like Golden Bear Cafe, which are picked up and processed by our internal Food Recovery team.

If you are interested in supporting our efforts, we highly recommend monetary instead of in-kind donations since we get great pricing through our distributors!

Where does the funding come from? Do you have a nonprofit status?

Our funding comes from a variety of sources: currently our pantry inventory is purchased through funding from individual donors and some funding from the state of CA for Basic Needs. Our operations, other supplies, and staffing are paid for with funds from state Basic Needs funding, donations from Peet’s and Bank of the West and smaller individual donations. We also receive funding from the ASUC thanks to the recently passed Basic Needs Referendum, but most of this goes to other Basic Needs programs. 

We are part of the UC Berkeley Foundation which is a registered 501(c)3. If you would like to report a donation on your taxes we are happy to share our tax ID # for tax refund purposes. You can email us at foodpantry@berkeley.edu.

Where can I go when the pantry is closed?

There is an abundance of support in Berkeley. We partner with several community pantries and encourage you to access their resources if and when you need them!

Berkeley Food Pantryweekly at 1600 Sacramento St.