VCU students pursue local food co-op

Benjamin Gadams
Contributing Writer

An affordable, healthy alternative to the dining options on campus could be coming to VCU in the form of a student-run food cooperative.

Inspired by University of Maryland’s food collective, VCU student Jamie Mack said she hopes to offer fresh, locally-sourced foods at more affordable prices. While it may be a while before a food co-op can be seen at VCU, Mack has already started in-depth planning.

“The idea is that it’s a nonprofit kind of cafe where you could buy ready-to-eat hot food, build your own sandwiches, ready-to-eat sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetables,” Mack said.

The UMD food co-op was founded in the 1970s and remains an active part of Maryland campus life. Workers sell goods without management, and each person shares the responsibility of running the store. The store offers cheap, healthy foods for a variety of diets, including vegetarian and vegan. Mack believes that the success of the co-op in Maryland could potentially be replicated in Richmond.

The idea for a food cooperative at VCU came to Mack when the UMD food collective was mentioned at a “No Wal-Mart on Grace Street” meeting. An alternative to a corporate grocery store like a food co-op could help give students more healthy eating options.

“If I had better access to local foods, then I would buy them more often,” Mack said.

In order to become an official VCU organization, the cooperative needs more members who are serious about bringing it to reality. Once there, the group can seek funding from VCU. To become a storefront, the co-op would need to get licensed to sell goods, and a rented space to sell from.

Mack said she hopes the VCU food cooperative can run its own stand on campus. She envisions students paying with their dining plans, or even volunteering or trading when they can’t afford to pay. 

“The idea is that we would be selling just enough to cover the cost of what we are buying,” Mack said.

Anyone interested in becoming a part of the food co-op initiative may request to join via the Facebook page.

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