Frequently Asked Questions - Food Pantry

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 “checkout” 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.

What can I expect when I come to the Pantry?

Users of the pantry are free to enter the pantry and collect as many items as they need. There is no system to limit the number or type of items you can take - we just ask that users be conscious that the pantry is a shared resource and take only what they need.

We ask that users go through a checkout process where they scan their Cal ID, answer yes/no questions about the items they took, scan any barcoded items listed in our inventory, and confirm their status as a student or staff with or without dependents. This information is encrypted and helps us conduct research to better meet your needs down the line.

Due to COVID-19 public health guidelines, we have moved from the Food Pantry at BNorth (lower level of MLK Student Union), to the first floor of the MLK Student Union. However, other than the location, you can expect the same experience coming to the pantry as mentioned above.

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

The pantry is run by 50+ student volunteers and managed by 2-3 student staff coordinators, 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 their two hour shift 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 coordinators are hired as current coordinators 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 mainly from Daylight foods, though we are currently working towards connecting with smaller vendors and independent farmers for more of our produce orders.

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 local farmers markets (like Kensington Farmers Market), grocery stores (like Monterey Market in North Berkeley or Whole Foods), and community farms and gardens (like Gill Tract Community Farm or Clark Kerr Garden). It is delivered by volunteers, some affiliated with certain organizations. Some of our produce and nearly all bread and pastries is 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 delivered by bay area-based nonprofit Replate and processed by our Food Recovery team. Occasionally, items will be picked up by pantry staff and brought to the pantry depending on capacity or special circumstances, like harvests done by our Gleaning team.

If you are interested in supporting our efforts, we highly recommend monetary instead of in-kind donations to ensure sanitary conditions and maximize efficiency.

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.