There's a little-known space in the HUB, all the way to the back of the ASUW offices. There, you'll find a tiny room with crates full of dried fruits, granola, green lentils, and tea lining the walls, soft music playing in the background, and friendly staff asking, "How has your day been going?"
You might forget for just a minute that you’re still on campus.
Welcome to the Bean Basket, a student powered brick and mortar bulk buying store that strives to provide an accessible place for the community to purchase affordable and sustainable food. Opened just a year ago, the store is one of many student-led initiatives and projects brought to life by the ASUW Student Food Cooperative.
You can learn more about the ASUW Student Food Co-op in the latest episode of our new podcast - "In Our Nature." For the podcast, we sat down with Co-op Co-manager Tiara Adler and member Emma D’Orazio to discuss how the ASUW Food Co-op operates and how students can get involved.
Tiara said that the core of the ASUW Student Food Co-op is a "collection of students who care about food and sustainability and making an impact through food choices."
Like other cooperatives, the ASUW Student Food Co-op is structured to provide a equitable platform for all members to discuss and voice their opinion on decisions being made. The Student Food Co-op attempts to provide resources for students who would not typically have access to live a typical "sustainable" lifestyle.
"Sustainability is often connected with a lot of systems of privilege," Emma said. "A lot of people aren’t able to engage with sustainability in the way that they should be able to. We are definitely trying to bring more access to sustainability, and food is a pillar of sustainability. We interact with it everyday, we have to, we need it to survive. So on that level, it’s really really important that there are students on campus that care about it and want to better it for our community."
The Bean Basket is one example of how the ASUW Food Co-op is reaching out to the community and providing tools to consider sustainable eating habits.
All of the goods found in the Bean Basket are outsourced from a wholesale supplier in Oregon that is certified organic and free trade. Additionally, the price of the goods are marked as low as possible since the store is volunteer run and has few overhead costs.
Their team has also attempted to create resources like recipe cards to encourage the community to test new recipes and buy alternative ingredients that they otherwise might not have tried.
While there are many various ways to engage in sustainable eating, Tiara suggests to start off small by growing a small amount of food in your living space.
"If it means that you can have a basil pot in your room or even try growing kale, I think that’s a great way to start thinking about where your food comes from. It gives you the opportunity to connect with your food," she said.
Emma also suggests cooking as much as possible.
"The more that you cook, the more that you end up having this relationship with food that surrounded by cooking with friends and community members. It makes it a more positive experience."
Both Emma and Tiara heavily emphasized that anyone can join the Food Co-op and that interested students should attend their weekly meetings where their team discuss topics on sustainability, hold recipe testing sessions, and plan out future events like the bi-annual Humble Feast, coming up on Monday, May 7.
Photo by Lucas Boland