Undocumented students benefit from a Food Pantry that provides goods and fresh produce free of charge, and on a no-questions-asked basis.

Food for the hungry

Food security is a serious issue for many students at UC Berkeley, and for undocumented students in particular. A report from Berkeley Law’s International Human Rights Law Clinic found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of the undocumented students interviewed skipped meals due to financial constraints. Some reported missing as many as 14 meals per week.

To address the issue of food security, UC Berkeley created a Food Pantry for all students. The Pantry provides non-perishable goods and fresh produce to students for free and with no-questions-asked. Students need only show valid student ID to gain access.

Any UC Berkeley student may access the pantry twice per month (equivalent to about 14 meals per person). However, undocumented students are permitted to access the pantry up to once a week.

Three stages to a full food pantry

So far there have been three stages in the Food Pantry’s evolution:

  1. Providing emergency food relief and easy access, non-perishable goods
  2. Offering a weekly delivery of fresh produce in order to ensure that students could make healthy food choices
  3. Working with a dietician and nutritionist who offer cooking classes as well as information sessions on healthy and sustainable eating

Raising funds, minimizing costs

At first, the Pantry cost close to $100,000 a year to operate. Student funds financed the creation of the project, and continue to cover part of its operating costs. For the 2016-2017 year, a private donor awarded the Food Pantry $50,000. In addition, Bank of the West generously endowed the project $40,000 per year for 15 years.

The Pantry minimizes costs by purchasing food through the UC Berkeley dining program at bulk and wholesale pricing.

In 2019, the Pantry developed into what we know now as the Basic Needs Center.

Considerations for Getting Started

  • Is food security an issue for undocumented students at your institution? Are there student groups on campus who can inform you of the problem?
  • What are some ways your institution could partner with other departments or donors to minimize the cost of food? – For example, bulk and wholesale pricing through the the school’s dining program; donations from local banks or private donors to sustain the program; or food donations from local grocery stores.
  • What other food-related resources could your institution offer? – For example a meals program, cooking classes, or information on affordable, healthy eating?