The Berkeley Food Institute envisions a world in which nutritious, affordable food is available for all and is produced sustainably and fairly – ensuring healthy people and a healthy planet.
The College of Natural Resources (CNR), the Goldman School of Public Policy, the Graduate School of Journalism, Berkeley Law, and the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley have joined together to develop an institute dedicated to galvanizing the transition to more resilient and just food systems, from local to global scales. BFI has over 75 affiliated faculty and staff on the UC Berkeley campus.
The Berkeley Food Institute works to catalyze and support transformative change in food systems, to promote diversity, justice, resilience, and health, from the local to the global.
Main Strategies and Objectives
BFI creates and supports linkages between research, education, policy, practice, and social movements that pertain to the Institute’s mission. The following are the main overlapping strategies, and objectives for each:
Research: The overarching question the Institute seeks to address is this: how do we facilitate and contribute to the transition of food and agriculture systems from being highly industrialized, consolidated, homogenized, and globalized system to become healthful, ecologically and culturally diverse, regenerative, and socially and economically just? We conduct and support research that is:
- Interdisciplinary and innovative
- Participatory and collaborative
- Actionable and methodologically robust
- Aimed to foster and strengthen sustainable and just food systems on local through global scales
Education: Develop unique educational opportunities to advance knowledge and problem-solving in this field
Policy: We strategically identify specific policy areas in which the work of Berkeley faculty and students can make a difference in food systems. We collaborate with community partners to produce and share action-oriented policy briefs, facilitate working groups and public events on critical topics, and build relationships with influential actors in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
Practice/Community: Collaborate and engage with community initiatives and innovative practitioners and public campaigns to support resilient, diverse, just, and healthy food systems
Main Thematic Areas
- Health, labor, and justice
- Climate, agriculture, and land use
- Agroecology and ecosystem services
- Governance, policy, and economics
- Urban-rural links and innovative business models in food systems
BFI’s Four Pillars
The Berkeley Food Institute’s “pillars” describe a vision for transformed food systems in which diversity, justice, resilience, and health pertain to food that is available to all people, and also characterize the ways in which food is grown and produced, affects our environment, and impacts economies and communities worldwide. BFI recognizes the interconnections between diversity, justice, resilience, and health, and acknowledges that these concepts are fundamental elements of sustainability in food systems. Here are brief explanations of these terms in the context of food systems:
Diversity encompasses agricultural biodiversity (of organisms, species, populations, and landscapes) within farming systems and surrounding areas; economic and physical diversity in production systems; social diversity in the production and distribution system; diversity of consumers and beneficiaries; variety in food sources and nutrition that is essential for a healthful diet and for life itself; and culinary diversity and its importance for cultural traditions.
Justice encompasses “a concern for justice, peace, and genuine respect for people” (Oxford English Dictionary) in all stages and levels of food and agricultural systems and at all scales, from the production of agricultural inputs and food; through distribution systems and access to land/resources and food; to consumption patterns; and in broader economic, social and political structures that affect the food system.
Resilience encompasses the capability of food/agriculture production system and of people/cultures associated with food systems to respond effectively to changes in the environment and in social/economic conditions; and the capacity of agricultural systems (and natural resources related to agriculture) to recover from stresses, and to ensure sustainability (endurance) over time, across generations.
Health encompasses the wellness and well-being of people in all aspects of the food system (including consumers, workers, producers, etc.) through access to sufficient and good food; absence of disease or ill-health associated with lack of adequate/appropriate foods or inappropriate working conditions; and also health and robustness of ecosystems, soil, plants, animals, and natural resources
Disciplines and Entities Involved with the Berkeley Food Institute
For a printable summary of BFI’s work, please download the pdf here.