Beyond the campus food pantry: Ruben Canedo takes on student hunger crisis

July 9, 2018

The Berkeley Food Institute recently launched Hungry for Change, a multi-media project that highlights the stories of 20 emerging California innovators working to transform food and agriculture systems within their community and beyond. Ruben Canedo is one of those “Changemakers.” An advocate for meeting the basic needs of all college students, Canedo chairs UC Berkeley’s Basic Needs Committee and co-chairs UC’s Basic Needs Committee, a system-wide effort across all 10 UC campuses. 

Born in the United States, Ruben Canedo spent his childhood straddling the border communities of Coachella and the Imperial Valley in the U.S. and Mexicali in Mexico. Canedo grew up in a mixed-immigration status household that stressed the importance of sharing scarce resources.

“My parents raised me to never assume that people have their basic needs met,” says Canedo, now 29. “Many of my paternal grandmother’s clients were from undocumented backgrounds, barely surviving on the checks from working in the date fields. Her golden rule: If you come to my restaurant, you will get fed.” His dad helped his martial arts students fundraise for travel and donated classes. His mom volunteered at schools and shelters. “That was the environment I grew up in. It was always — about giving back.”