Student Food Cooperative Offers Campus Good Eats

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We constantly hear that Berkeley is known across the world for its dedication to big ideas and for its history of student involvement in social movements. As some of you might know-maybe from hearing about Professor Michael Pollan and his book "The Omnivore's Dilemma"-our city is the epicenter of a sustainable foods movement that champions environmentally and socially conscious food. This is a great development, but one that has mostly involved university faculty and community members. So far, the majority of students haven't had a good day-to-day means of being involved in sustainability.

I like music. I'm in a couple of bands in Berkeley and I like to go to shows whenever I can. I also like food and I'm interested in environmental issues, but I'm not a hardcore activist or an ideologue (though I am a philosophy major, so bear with me). I've always been surprised at the lack of any cohesive music scene on campus. There are one or two venues (expensive!), but it seems that the small, scattered music scene in this town relies on house parties that get shut down by the cops and art gallery shows 15 minutes into Oakland-hardly ideal settings for new students and musicians. The situation hasn't been much better on campus either.Allow me to introduce you to The Berkeley Student Food Cooperative! Our plan is to open a student-run, student-owned cafe and market that will offer delicious sandwiches, soups, groceries, juices, coffee and pastries, as well as serve as a venue for local arts, music and events. We want your help!

You've probably heard some of the catchphrases of the sustainable foods movement-organic, local, fair trade, renewable-but this food co-op is a way to actually put those abstract principles into action in an important and inexpensive way. Following the Real Food Challenge's Real Food Criteria, we'll ensure that our food is ecologically sound, humane, fairly traded, community based and healthy. Our produce will be bought directly from local farmers and our co-op will be run mainly by volunteers like myself, so we can cut out the "middle men" and keep the costs of running the store low, which will allow us to pass on a 20-40 percent savings to customers. I got involved in starting this up because I saw that it had potential to offer the Berkeley campus three things I love: cheap, tasty food, sustainable alternatives and a venue for arts, music, and other events. Now we need you to do the same!

We have already raised over $100,000 but we need more to open our doors. We are looking for student interns and volunteers interested in a great summer project helping us network, crunch numbers, finalize our business plan, write policies and get established.

No matter how much time you can commit, you can help us out enormously just by coming to our meetings and offering your perspective. You can also make a tax deductible donation to our project at our Web site, Two weeks ago we hired a professional business consultant who is highly motivated. He is helping us organize our business and there is a lot to be done-from market research and fundraising to screen-printing T-shirts and planning events. The learning experiences possible in the next few months are huge, and as a group, we'd love to have all the help we can get. Cooperatives are a proven answer to difficult economic downturns.

During the Great Depression, there was a surge in cooperative businesses, purchasing collectives and housing organizations because of their ability to efficiently pool together resources and provide services in a fair and equal manner. Today, both individuals and large institutions-UC administrators and students included-are looking for creative solutions to our economic and social problems. The Berkeley Student Food Cooperative is about making something good happen to improve our campus and our daily lives. Come to our meetings Mondays at 7 at Andres Castro Arms Co-op (Warring & Bancroft) and look for us selling organic produce Mondays on Sproul.

Alex Gair is a member of the Berkeley Student Food Cooperative. Reply to [email protected]

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