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Berkeley Food Institute aims to help transform the world's food system

By Carol Ness


Where else but Berkeley — home of both Chez Panisse and the Free Speech Movement — would the nation’s top public university launch an institute whose aim is not just better food for all but a fundamental transformation of the world’s food systems?

UC Berkeley’s new Berkeley Food Institute has nothing less as its goal. The institute deploys the intellect, energy and influence of five colleges to connect with farmers and environmentalists, with people struggling to feed their families, with the food industry and with policymakers and powerbrokers to help supercharge the push for a fair and sustainable food system.

Claire Kremen, Alastair Iles

Claire Kremen and Alastair Iles of the College of Natural Resources, faculty co-directors of the Berkeley Food Institute. (UC Berkeley photos)

“We aim — through research, education and outreach to citizens and policymakers — to help transform the global food system into one that is diverse, just, resilient and healthy,” says Claire Kremen, a professor of environmental science, policy and management in the College of Natural Resources and co-faculty director of the institute with CNR colleague Alastair Iles.

At its launch this fall, BFI brings together the College of Natural Resources , Berkeley Law , the Goldman School of Public Policy , the Graduate School of Journalism and the School of Public Health . Already, the institute has attracted some three dozen faculty from across campus, and many more have expressed an interest.

“When it comes to creating a new food system that can sustainably produce and distribute nutritious and adequate food on a global level, the challenges are complex and the stakes could not be higher,” says UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. “Success will require the coordinated involvement of numerous academic disciplines, from public health to environmental science to public policy. By drawing on Berkeley’s comprehensive excellence and commitment to public service, this new institute is very well-positioned to effect meaningful change.”

Its goal is to help the food system grow a new body, as it were, rather than trying to apply Band-aids to some of its wounds.
– BFI co-director Alastair Iles