Student Group Stories

April 2017
The portraits below tell the stories of a sampling of students involved in the many food-related groups on campus. Our aim was to understand individual student’s experiences of food-related activism and student activities, including their reflections on diversity, equity, and inclusion within campus food work. Interviews by Natalia Semeraro, Nathalie Munoz, Julia Tubert, and Louisa Brown.
Videography and editing by Curtis Yap and Jonathan Fong. 


Agnes Zhu, FoodInno

Excerpt: “The more I’ve learned about food justice, the more I feel like food innovation and food business are the ways to solve a lot of the problems we have, whether it be farming or even nutrition and the way people eat.”

Agnes is a fourth year undergraduate studying Business Administration and pursuing a pre-med track. Outside of Net Impact Berkeley, she conducts neuroscience research and volunteers at the Berkeley Free Clinic. Agnes is particularly passionate about food justice, and hopes to combine her interests in food and medicine in the future. In her free time, Agnes enjoys swimming, biking and running.

Charlie James

Charlie James, FEED (Food, Equity, Entrepreneurship, and Development)

Excerpt: “I really like the social justice and critical thinking oriented-ness of building social consciousness. That being understanding the other dynamics of race, and class and access– particularly economically we can see in the food system on other nations, the “developing nations,” that the United States takes advantage of often […] And understanding how all that’s related locally” “Absorb everything that’s happening and [do]n’t consistently have this pressure and force that you need to be doing something, that you need to be better, [forget] that, whatever it, is forcing you to act a certain way, say certain things and not just be present.”

Charlie is an undergraduate in Business Administration with a Food Systems Minor. He is currently studying abroad in Japan at Tsuru University and is intensively studying the language and culture while participating in Social 菜園’s (saien’s), which is a student gardening club on campus. As former President of FEED and former Chair of the Berkeley Food Institute Undergraduate Advisory Council, Charlie maintains his interest in the intersection of business and food systems, particularly in its relation to social justice. Activities he enjoys is working with his grandmother and uncle on their vegetable farm and orange grove in Japan, spending time together with close ones, and having uncomfortable but important conversations.

Cheryl Ching

Cheryl Ching, Berkeley Student Food Collective Anti-Oppression Committee

Excerpt: “I’ve really learned that the issues you really want to tackle are a lot more complicated than you think and also that you really can’t change them by yourself. You’ve got to build a strong community and a strong network that can really support each other. It’s about empowering yourself and the people around you to tackle these issues”

Cheryl is a fourth year chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major and Food Systems Minor. They were the anti-oppression coordinator at the Berkeley Student Food Collective from fall 2016 to spring 2017 and helped implement the dollar menu and the Pay it Forward program.

Esteban Vasquez

Esteban Vasquez, UC Berkeley Food Pantry

Excerpt: “Some UC’s have had food pantries in the past, but what I think makes UC Berkeley so unique is that we have a holistic model to meet student’s basic needs. We have the food pantry, we have a food assistance program, we have calfresh clinics on campus and I feel like UC Berkeley is one of those campuses that the students are really passionate about what they do and they want to see greater impacts and we feel like we can have an impact on a global scale.”

Esteban is a first-generation college student in Business Administration from Oxnard, CA. As the son of immigrant farmworkers, he experienced food insecurity in his adolescent years since his family was low-income. As a result, he began volunteering at local food pantries in Oxnard and wanted to continue this service when he enrolled at UC Berkeley. He began volunteering for the UC Berkeley Food Pantry and was able to become Operations Coordinator for the Pantry and later transitioned into becoming the Finance Coordinator for the UC Berkeley Basic Needs Security Committee. Esteban is passionate about increasing the college enrollment of students in poverty-stricken neighborhoods and solving food insecurity on college campuses and low-income communities.

Vikremjeet Padda

Vikremjeet Padda, Student Organic Garden Association

Excerpt: “There is just a really supportive group of people here at Berkeley, that really just keep you driven to continue fighting for whatever your cause is, whether it is agricultural reform, or trying to incorporate more garden learning into different types of classes, or anything.”

I am third year student majoring in Geography and Minoring in Food Systems and Ethnic Studies. My passion for food stems from my Punjabi heritage and growing up with traditional farming practices taught to me by my parents and grandparents though our home gardens. Having their knowledge and wisdom passed to me has helped me see the beauty that food has within it while also helping me realize the larger problems that lie within the modern food system. Berkeley’s food community (specifically SOGA) has helped me grow as a leader, student, and community member by allowing me the opportunity to help other people reclaim the food that they eat and by helping expand the conversations involving food.


Chrissy Badaracco, GradFood

Excerpt: “Our group of graduate students includes a very diverse set of people from throughout the university with different interests, different cultural backgrounds, different focuses of study. I’d say it’s not necessarily intentional, but our events and the content of our events, the venues for our events, are always very diverse, I think, and welcoming for students from all backgrounds and with all needs.”

Chrissy will graduate with her Master of Public Health in 2017 and then begin her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital to become a registered dietitian. In her future career, she hopes to improve the American food system and help people improve their health through food and healthy lifestyles. Before coming to Berkeley, she graduated from Princeton with a degree in biology and then worked in the Office of Water at the EPA. Her food-related work at Berkeley has included writing an evaluation plan for the campus nutrition policy for her master capstone; serving as co-chair of GradFood; teaching several different nutrition courses as a GSI; leading a healthy breakfast workshop series for public health students; serving as a peer leader for The Body Project to combat disordered eating and body image among students; and being a part of BFI’s student council.