Claire Kremen at BFI Inaugural Symposium. Photo by Kara Brodgesell.

Our Story

Our Mission

The Berkeley Food Institute seeks to transform food systems to expand access to healthy, affordable food and promote sustainable and equitable food production. We empower new leaders with capacities to cultivate diverse, just, resilient, and healthy food systems.

While our current global agri-food system has achieved remarkable historical successes, it nevertheless increasingly fails on many fronts. The food system undermines ecosystem and cultural diversity, lacks resilience in the face of emerging climate change, wastes food and natural resources, creates pollution, fosters myriad social injustices—including exploitation of agri-food workers—and leaves millions of people hungry while others suffer from obesity.

Meanwhile, efforts to transform the food system are emerging around the world. As social movements and civic initiatives protest and resist the predominant, industrialized system, they have catalyzed alternative, localized, regional, or global “agri-food networks” that may improve food sovereignty, environmental conditions, and human health and justice. These movements and initiatives represent exciting potential for progressive change. Yet they often suffer from fragmentation, lack adequate institutional and government support, and face many structural, political, and economic challenges in achieving their goals.

The Berkeley Food Institute aims to address some of these impediments to systemic change by creating productive connections between members of the scholarly community, farmers and other producers, non-governmental organizations, governments, and civil society. Through interdisciplinary research and collaborative civic and community engagement, we hope to contribute to the exciting process of food system transformation.

BFI builds links and overcomes gaps or silos that have commonly impeded progress in this field. For example, BFI informs policymakers and reporters about important research from UC Berkeley in this field; enables researchers to become more aware of important developments among agricultural producers; facilitates exchange of knowledge and information between social movements and scientists; and collaborates with efforts to ensure accountability and social responsibility among agri-food corporations. The Institute also probes and identifies theories and effective strategies of achieving social and policy change, explores approaches to strengthen productive connections, and contributes to the implementation of innovative practices within food systems.