Today sees the grand opening of the Berkeley Student Food Collective, an initiative that has been 18 months in the making, and which Berkeleyside profiled in early October.

The idea for the student run grocery market — which sells healthy, sustainable take-out food and produce — was born in early 2009 when a group of students protested and prevented the proposed opening of fast food restaurant Panda Express on the campus.

“Most of us [students] eat whatever we can grab between classes that’s fast and cheap — we want to offer a delicious sandwich with some fruit and a drink as an alternative to the less healthy on-the-go foods near campus,” student member Ruby Yoon said.

The Collective aims to be more than just a place students can pick up groceries and grab lunch. “It will also act as a hub of education and activism around sustainable food systems,” said member and UC Berkeley alumna Christina Oatfield . “We’ll be taking our members on field trips to local farms and urban gardens and holding events on and around campus that expose students to the issues in our global food system.”

The Collective has attracted dozens of actively-involved student members and hundreds of supporters, including an advisory board of notable people in the food sustainability movement such as Jaques Kaswan of Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives.

It has raised more than $100,000 in donations and grants, principally from UC Berkeley in the form of $91,000 from its Green Initiative Fund. The building which houses the store is also owned by UC.

The store, which is open to students and members of the public, is at 2440 Bancroft Way. When Berkeleyside spoke to Cal freshman and collective outreach coordinator for the Collective Justina Byrne at around 2pm today, she said business was brisk. “We have lots of people coming in. It’s been very busy,” she said. Byrne added that they are offering in-store workshops, samples and tours and will be open until 7pm tonight. Normal hours are 9am-7pm daily.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...