BERKELEY (CBS SF) — The Berkeley Food Network and the Alameda County Community Food Bank announced Tuesday that they received a total of $600,000 in grants from the philanthropic arm of the pharmaceutical company Bayer to combat hunger in Berkeley.

The Berkeley Food Network will use half of the grant to hire staff and create a food redistribution center, acting as a central hub for Berkeley’s smaller hunger-relief organizations and bolstering their supply of food for hungry families.

The Alameda County Community Food Bank will use the other half of the grant to buy and distribute food throughout Berkeley, including $100,000 earmarked specifically for hunger relief during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“Before this crisis took hold, one in five Berkeley residents was already experiencing hunger — and we’ve since seen an extraordinary spike in need since,” BFN executive director Sara Webber said. “This funding from the Bayer Fund will be critical to our ability to serve the growing need today — but is also an investment in our long-term efforts.”

Bayer is Berkeley’s largest private-sector employer and a majority of its more than 1,000 employees in the Bay Area work at the city’s biotechnology facility. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin expressed the city’s pride both in Bayer and the two hunger relief organizations for their efforts.

“The Berkeley economy includes many independent, small businesses and non-profits that bring people together through music, theater and dining — sectors hard hit by the pandemic as we work to keep everyone safe by sheltering in place,” Arreguin said. “The collaboration between the (Alameda County Community) Food Bank and the Berkeley Food Network to increase access to quality nutrition is needed now more than ever.”

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