student food collective

ensuring fair representation in the berkeley food security community


Feb 2020 - May 2020


Society, Education, Accessibility


Survey creation, User interviews


Berkeley Student Food Collective


Brendan Shih

Project Lead

Katrina Gonzales

Design Consultant

Malena Kleiven

Design Consultant

Manooshree Patel

Design Consultant


Neeknaz Abari

Operations Associate @ BSFC

Jeff Noven

Executive Director @ BSFC


With the goals of attracting new members and improving member experience of the Berkeley Student Food Collective, we conducted in-depth interviews and a literature review to better understand members’ experiences, the key components of successful food collective organizations, and community needs.

Our partner

The Berkeley Student Food Collective (BSFC) is a non-profit volunteer-run grocery store. It is dedicated to “providing fresh, local, healthy, environmentally sustainable, and ethically produced food at affordable prices to the Berkeley campus and greater community.”

The problem

The Berkeley Student Food Collective membership was not representative of the community it aimed to serve and its leadership structures were unclear. The Collective wanted to enact effective structural changes that would lead to acquiring new membership from the community and enhancing the experience for existing members.

Who is our user?

BSFC members and patrons

both prospective and current

Our users need...

Effective and standardized club leadership and membership structures.
A more diverse membership body that is representative of the community.
A deeper understanding of the needs and struggles of the communities being served.


Our team provided a detailed literature review of existing food cooperatives and used the resulting information to design and carry out an in-depth survey of members and patrons of BSFC. We also conducted directed interviews to learn more about the needs of the student community.


Literature Review

How might we better understand the best practices of organizations that aim to provide healthy and affordable food to their communities?

We reviewed organizations with similar goals to the Collective and found that cooperative success and function seemed to generally stem from:

  • a sense of community
  • a strict membership work requirement
  • a scaled benefits system
  • a bureaucratic leadership structure
  • partnerships with other local businesses.
This information allowed us to make some recommendations to the BSFC leadership. So as not to undermine the existing structures of the Collective, we were careful to consider how our changes would affect the systems that were already in place.


Member Interview

How might we provide for and engage a more representative membership especially within communities that are not currently represented?

We decided to conduct one-on-one interviews as we felt this would yield more detailed and in-depth insights compared to basic general surveys.

It was found that members typically joined the Collective because of the principles and ideals that it upholds rather than any incentives associated with membership.

“It’s a really big group, so it’s hard to get to know people. Meetings are not consistent and there is not accountability for attendance. These things make it really hard to see the food collective as a cohesive community.”
-BSFC member

The trend in member responsed that pointed to a non-unified collective made us give special attention to recommendations that related to this concern. Encouraging greater unity and being more strict about policies are two ways to begin addressing this issue.


Community Review

How might we better understand and meet the needs of the community that is served by the Collective?

We spoke with the Vice President of Student Affairs for Berkeley about the student community and its relationship with the Collective. In order to improve the diversity of the Collective’s membership and users, she recommended that the Collective strive to be more intentional about serving marginalized communities. “Sometimes it's not about students coming to you, but you going to students.”

The director of COFED (operations), an organization that works with food co-ops and focuses on inclusion, was asked about how to better engage marginalized groups. Her suggestions included:

  • focusing on the education of food apartheid
  • understanding that privilege plays a role in volunteer spaces
  • connecting the community through work that is inclusive and intergenerational.
This material was all included in a report on the needs of the community that is supported by the collective.