Foraging at the farmers' market, which will be included on Saturday's Bay Area Green Tour of Berkeley's food hot spots

Tomorrow, Bay Area Green Tours co-hosts a food field trip spotlighting some of the best of Berkeley’s alternative food systems. It’s part of the 15th Annual Community Food Security Coalition Conference, which runs today through Tuesday in Oakland. The Community Food Security Coalition is a national nonprofit dedicated to creating a food movement that is healthy, sustainable, and just.

The national conference draws sustainable food advocates, anti-hunger experts, and food policy wonks from around the country. The Food Sovereignty tour, which is open to the public (though now sold out), introduces participants to community food gardens, farmers’ markets, school food, and alternative food businesses in this town, which, of course, is well known for its food-forward agenda.

“Berkeley has been a leader in the food movement for many decades, from the food co-ops of the 1970s, to urban farming and farmers markets in the 1980s, food security and food systems in the 1990s,  and the Berkeley Food Policy Council, school lunch reform, and food justice in the last decade,” said the Ecology Center‘s Executive Director Martin Bourque, who will share tour leader duties with Rebecca Prager of Berkeley Youth Alternatives and Marissa LaMagna of Bay Area Green Tours.

“We designed this tour with the goal of sharing with other communities an approach to locally based alternative food system from multiple perspectives: production, distribution, institutional purchasing, public health approaches, community outreach, food access, and youth leadership,” he siad.

Participants will learn about institutional food at both UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Unified School District, both educational bodies seeking to improve the diets of students, from preschoolers to post graduates. Both entities have received kudos for their innovative approaches to feeding their constituents. Student food activists, including those from the The Berkeley Student Food Collective, will also be on hand.

In the mix to offer an overview of this gown-town’s food movement roots: Mayor Tom Bates, Senator Loni Hancock, and members of the Berkeley Food Policy Council, an advisory group charged with helping to foster a sustainable local economy and assure that all Berkeley residents — not just those who can afford to eat at Chez Panisse — have access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food.

And, since it’s Saturday, no such tour would be complete without a wander through the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, where director Ben Feldman will introduce visitors to its wide array of produce and artisan products, along with the small-scale farmers and edible entrepreneurs who run these enterprises. A spokesperson from Mi Tierra Foods, a long-time local ethnic grocery store, will add a bricks-and-mortar business perspective.

All this talk of food will no doubt make attendees hungry. The conversation continues over lunch at Revival restaurant, where chef Amy Murray will represent the farm-to-table, root-to-shoot, tail-to-snout philosophy practiced at Berkeley restaurants that espouse eating local, organic, seasonal, sustainable and ethically raised fare for the health of eaters, farmers, animals, and the environment.

Once they are well-fed and educated about Berkeley’s food ways, the conference goers head to Oakland on Sunday for the conference kick off.

Sarah Henry is the voice behind Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Food Day: Growing a movement around what we eat [10.21.11]
Youth program to close after 18 years for lack of funds [10.18.11]
The Bread Project: Cooking up a future for people in need [09.30.11]
Farm-to-fork tours spotlight local green businesses [09.23.11]
U.S. Surgeon General visits UC Berkeley, Edible Schoolyard [03.17.11]
Berkeley’s school lunch program is flawed, say insiders [02.14.11]
After Berkeley, school lunches will never be the same [02.02.11]
Joy Moore: Community food reformer [02.11.11]
Garden teacher Kim Allen offers youth space to grow [01.21.11]
Berkeley Bites: Berkeley Student Food Collective [10.08.10]
Berkeley Bites: Ambrocio Hernandez, Mi Tierra Foods [07.02.10]
Berkeley Bites: Daniel Miller, Spiral Gardens [07.30.11]
Berkeley Bites: Ben Feldman, Farmers’ Market man [06.18.10]
Berkeley Bites: Amy Murray, Venus and now Revival [06.11.10]
Berkeley Bites: Jessica Prentice, Three Stone Hearth [06.04.10]