Isla Vista Food Co-op Closes Escrow, Successfully Completes Project We Own It

Photo By William Renteria

Cheyenne Johnson
Staff Writer

Photo by William Renteria

The Isla Vista Food Cooperative, better known as the IV Food Co-op, raised enough to purchase and continue existing in its current location on Seville road. The Co-op, upon learning of the impending sale of its property, began Project We Own It in an attempt to raise the amount they could not find ways to cover themselves, roughly $200,000. The Co-op recently raised this amount, ensuring they will remain in the building they’ve occupied since 1972.

Hannah Pierce, a fourth-year psychology major, became involved with the Project We Own It in October and quickly brought it to the attention of Associated Students.

“Everyone was really excited about it,” said Pierce, “and the idea evolved into a partnership as opposed to a donation or AS becoming a part owner. AS External Vice President for Local Affairs Rhandy Siordia took the reins from there in terms of organizing the partnership while I attended the PWOI meetings, had posters and fliers distributed to the residence halls and local businesses, tabled at the Co-op and got as many people to pledge and informed about the project as I could.”

Pierce said the local movement to preserve the Co-op was a unique experience for her.

“I had never been a part of a grassroots campaign before or any campaign for that matter,” said Pierce, “and I was so moved by the passion and dedication of all of the volunteers and people involved. So meeting our goal was extremely gratifying and inspiring.”

Rhandy Siordia said he’s excited for the future of the Co-op.

“I’m very pleased and excited that the IV Food Cooperative property has successfully been purchased,” said Siordia. “The community has demonstrated an unprecedented outpouring of energy and support towards making Project We Own It a success, and it has become just that.”

Siordia said that though Associated Students helped fund Project We Own It, the final details concerning their relationship have not been defined.

“In terms of the Associated Students-Isla Vista Food Cooperative Partnership,” said Siordia, “the agreement document has made its way up through University of California Santa Barbara Administration and is currently being reviewed by UC Office of the President. I’m eagerly awaiting a response and am remaining positive.”

According to Siordia, the partnership would include the some Associated Students Boards, Commissions, and Committees (BCCs) including the Isla Vista Tenants Union, IV Community Relations Committee, Community Affairs Board and the Environmental Affairs Board as they each have a mission statement which aligns with the mission of the Co-op. The BCCs have also expressed an interest in supporting the Co-op in exchange for support in the future, potentially in the form of educational workshops for the community, food sponsorships and a potential discount program for UCSB students.

Melissa Cohen, the General Manager of the Co-op, said that while she’s thrilled Project We Own It was a success, the future of the Co-op is still in the hands of the local community.

“Even though Project We Own It is over in some ways, now the real work does begin,” said Cohen, “because we need the community people that support us to come shopping here. That’s really the critical thing so if you haven’t been to the Co-op or you’ve been thinking of coming to the Co-op or even switching more of your grocery dollars over to the Co-op, now is a critical time to do that. We have 1.4 million dollars in loans that we have to pay back and the only way that’s going to work is if while you guys are students here, you use us as a resource…The Co-op is only as strong as the community that it serves.”