The Food Movement, a push towards building local, sustainable food ecosystems, is rapidly expanding. As more people hear about it and join in, more organizations, names and acronyms are being thrown around. One notable stand out is the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI), which started in 2013 when the College of Natural Resources, the Goldman School of Public Policy, the Graduate School of Journalism, Berkeley Law and the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley teamed up to create an on-campus hub for all things food. BFI aims to connect research, education, policy and practice/community through healthy food, farms and people.

Berkeley Food Institute

Nina Ichikawa and Jocelyn Hsu discussing BFI | Photo by Samantha Cheng

“Out in the world, oftentimes it’s not treated as [interdisciplinary], so you have people just talking about the farming side, or just the public health side, or just the poverty side, and yet they’re all connected,” explains Nina Ichikawa, Policy Director of the Berkeley Food Institute. “I think we’re a place where these different disciplines can talk to each other and learn from each other, and hopefully we can work together more.”

One way BFI supports food-related research on campus is through seed grants. BFI has granted $89,000 to five projects in 2014 and $147,327 to six projects this year. These projects are conducted across departments in conjunction with various community groups. Ichikawa notes that many professors have conducted great research, but unfortunately the large majority of it goes unrecognized. She hopes to help these professors spread their research in an effort to create and shape new policies. Ichikawa comments, “Sometimes people laugh at the idealism of Berkeley, until it really changes the world. Working nationally and internationally, you keep seeing great ideas coming out of Berkeley and a lot of people are using them.”

Berkeley Food Institute

Professor Miguel Altieri at first Food Exchange in 2013 | Photo Courtesy of Berkeley A/V

Education is another key way BFI reaches out to UC Berkeley students, staff and community members. Currently, BFI is working with students to start a Food Systems minor. In addition, BFI co-sponsors Edible Education 101, a seminar which aims to inform not only students, but members of the community, about the rise and future of the Food Movement. BFI also hosts a variety of food events such as the Food Exchange series and Diversified Farming Systems Roundtables.

With its interdisciplinary approach and foundation, BFI undertakes research and education in a wide range of food issues in hopes of centralizing food resources at UC Berkeley and improving all aspects of food, from food security to practices to food policy, for the world.

“My favorite part [of BFI] is just nerding out on food every single day. Berkeley is a great place for nerds. Let’s just nerd out and change the world,” laughs Ichikawa.

Spoon University at Berkeley could not agree with her more.

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Berkeley Food Institute

Photo by Samantha Cheng

A special thank you to Nina Ichikawa for taking time out of her day for an interview.