It’s not everyday that a group of students decides to set up a fully-functioning on-campus cooperative market entirely from scratch. But thanks to the power of a simple Facebook post, an organization at UCLA is turning food into an actual business.
GOOD Maker recently joined forces with UCLA’s BGreen Consulting to issue the Green Solutions Competition, challenging UCLA students to improve the school's sustainability (with a bonus lesson in business proposal presentation). The goals of the policy include reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels, purchasing 20 percent sustainable food, and achieving zero waste by 2020.
Enter competition winner The UCLA Student Food Collective, an organization founded last June by juniors Shaydanay Urbani and Jamie Schenk. It all began when Urbani posted a status on Facebook asking, "Who wants to start a food collective on campus?" and its since blossomed into an organization of more than 40. The Food Collective plans to open an entirely student-owned and operated brick-and-mortar cooperative market on the Westwood campus by 2013.
The collective hopes to fill the campus market with items that the school’s food monopoly lacks, namely fresh, locally-sourced and sustainably-produced foods. The co-op plans to fill the niche that on-campus vendors like Taco Bell and Panda Express entirely miss, by bringing fresh bread, seasonal fruits and vegetables, bulk items such as quinoa, and dried fruit straight onto campus.
Though the organzation’s first year has largely been focusing on planning and conducting market research, it has been active in its educational campaigns, holding gardening and cooking workshops centered around seasonal produce, hosting potluck meals, and creating quarterly food zines. “Promoting education is a huge part of our objective,” Schenk says. “Training students how to work a business or spreading word of how important food production and consumption are will really promote healthy eating on campus.”
Come fall, the Collective aims to fundraise, apply for the University of California's Green Initiative Fund, take part in UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative, and open up shop. “It’s amazing how people really gravitate to something we can all enjoy together," says external representative Alyssa Curran. "Food doesn’t have to have a negative impact on environment. It can be something that is a beautiful thing. We just hope to open people’s eyes to how the food system can be a democratically run system where everyone has a vote.”
Photos courtesy of The UCLA Student Collective.