IV Food Co-op Supplies Basic Needs Program
by Sophia Gore Browne


Scraping by pay check to pay check with a part time job or a rapidly disappearing loan with no remaining evidence of being wisely spent aside from an aching liver and an empty fridge, is familiar college territory.

This common predicament explains a lot about the priorities of a hungry student: a meal must be cheap, tasty and immediately gratifying. However, hasty late night flights to Freebird’s or a slice from Giovanni’s not only gets a little monotonous, but is beginning to add up, with inflated food prices becoming apparent all over Isla Vista .

The Isla Vista Food Co-op offers a way out of the fast food loop by providing an extensive range of ‘Basic Need’ food items considered essential to maintain a balanced and healthy diet, at a considerably lowered price.

The Basic Needs Pricing List is outlined in a pamphlet at the Co-op with price cuts on foods from the bulk department such as brown rice, penne pasta, a variety of organic dried beans, flour and peanut butter as well as grocery items and organic milk, orange juice, and unsalted butter.

Prices are currently being updated, and the list expanded to include more staple products and produce.

“The Basic Needs Program was created as a way for people to fill their pantry with things that are very important basic supplies necessary to cook with” said store
manager Melissa Cohen.

The purpose of the basic needs program is to make healthy organic, non-gmo ingredients more affordable for students, providing an incentive for students to eat healthily and cook their own food.

“It’s useful to have healthy, organic ingredients for such great value. I always get the organic rolled oats which I use for making oatmeal, cookies and granola,” said regular customer Alessandra Baer. “I never have to worry about running out at the end of the week and always have plenty to share.”

With the amount you would spend on a burrito at Freebirds, it would be possible to buy the same ingredients at the co-op and create enough burrito’s for at least three meals.

“ ‘Basic needs’ is just another way for us to let people understand that the mission of the Co-op is far beyond merely operating as a retail grocery store. It functions as a way to engage people with the food choices that they make and inform them about how to step outside of the habit of buying pre-made packaged microwaveable instant meals and get a little bit more comfortable participating in the creation of your meals,” said Cohen.

‘Strategic shopping’ is the key, according to Cohen, which requires a shopping list and a few recipes in mind. This avoids money being spent on the whim of an empty stomach or tempted by cravings.

The Co-op strives to educate students how important it is to be informed where the money they spend on food goes. Especially with regards to the produce found at the Co-op, prices reflect the optimum balance of fair rates for customers with fair payment to farmers whilst sustaining the business on a minimum level of profit.

This makes it hard to remain competitive with other chain stores which can afford to charge less, since they buy in bulk with less connections and loyalties to those producing only for these large-scale distributors.

The Co-op supports a variety of small local farms, providing a reliable avenue for farmers to sell their produce.

“We need people to start getting more comfortable paying more money for their food because we need people to keep being farmers. If we don’t support these businesses, what is their incentive to keep growing food for us?” said Cohen.

It’s a win-win situation. Students can get more food for their money in quality and quantity and can credit themselves for being conscientious consumers, sustaining a local business and supporting local farmers.