Berkeley Food Network battles hunger in COVID era

(Photo: Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

Carolyn Sharp is grateful that Berkeley Food Network has embarked on a dynamic quest during the COVID pandemic: end hunger in the iconic East Bay city.

“The Berkeley Food Network is a main artery for this neighborhood,” said Sharp, who lives around the corner from the pantry near the corner of Ninth Street and University Avenue. “It’s a lifeline. People come here not just from Berkeley, but from Richmond and Oakland.”

In February 2020, before extensive business shutdowns to combat the coronavirus, Berkeley Food Network was serving about 1,500 clients a week in its various programs. By May 2020, that number had climbed to about 5,000 people a week, said Sara Webber, the nonprofit’s executive director and co-founder. It also expanded its on-site pantry in the company’s home base on Ninth Street.

“When COVID hit, most of the people who were adversely affected by the job cuts and layoffs came to our pantry,” Webber said. “That has become one of our biggest programs. We probably serve 70 families a day now at the pantry. We used to serve 30 a day.”

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