ISLA Carte Brings Affordable, Healthy Food for All


Tara Ahi
Features Editor

The struggle to find nutritious, eco-friendly food at an affordable price has long plagued University of California, Santa Barbara students, but a group has emerged that seems to be making actual headway on the project to rectify this. ISLA Carte is a completely student-run organization that intends to “provide less resource-intensive, locally sourced, affordable meal options for the UCSB community.

Their current mission statement reflects their goal is to “teach and encourage the UCSB community to eat locally sourced, plant-based, sustainable, nutritional meals to promote health and wellness amongst the community and environment.” This will be accomplished through cooking demonstrations, workshops, tasting events, (two of which have already succeeded) and the implementation of ISLA Carte.

Run by the ISLA (Incorporating Sustainable Local Agriculture) Student Collective, ISLA Carte has a philosophy that combines environmentalism with economics, as well as personal health and lifestyle. The people running this project are passionate about the message they hope to convey with the food cart, and live by this philosophy themselves. Stephanie Thorne, Samantha Rubin, Claire Jacobs, and Samantha Chang plan to capitalize on their gains from last year, and move forward with new projects and recruitment this year.

The chickpea and mint salad was featured at ISLA Carte’s first tasting.

“ISLA Carte is a neat project. It’s student run, and promotes an affordable and healthy food option on campus,” said Thorne, a fourth-year biology major. “The food is plant-based and I eat plant-based [food], so it allows me to eat something on campus, too. Plus, a good group of people are involved and very motivated to make things happen.”

“There’s correlation between diet and climate change,” continued Rubin, a fourth-year Environmental Studies major. “Changing our eating habits can help prevent further environmental degradation, preserve limited resources, and improve overall human health and wellness levels.”

According to Rubin, ISLA Student Collective and ISLA Carte have the ability to effectively introduce people to eating a plant-based, nutritious diet. Plus, Rubin added, there is a need for affordable, “real food” on campus, and ISLA Carte hopes to satisfy this need.

ISLA Carte featured homemade power bars at their first tasting.

This project has been many years in the works. In the last year, there have been great gains made in administration and organization after a group of seven students, supervised by UCSB Department of Geography Sustainability Coordinator Katie Maynard, set down a formal plan to implement the cart on campus. Besieged by administrative and financial red tape, there have been difficulties with start-up costs, health codes, accessing space, and funding, as well as hesitation from sponsors regarding the co-op business model.

The group is currently focusing on getting their name out there and proceeding with specifying just how the cart will run — intricacies that include where to source the ingredients, menu items (all original recipes), and balancing a needed profit margin with the promise to keep products affordable.

Another topic on hand is recruitment. Most of the people involved in ISLA Carte are graduating seniors, and as each new wave of students joins the cause, the mission slightly changes. The board encourages all underclassmen with similar goals and priorities to become involved with the process and take advantage of the valuable leadership roles that will be available.

I joined Isla Carte because I love food and genuinely believe that it is one of the strongest ways to build community,” said Chang, a third-year sociology major with a double minor in English and Education. “Being part of an organization that can not only bring people together, but educate the masses about healthy, just food alternatives is everything I could have hoped for for my college experience.”

Follow ISLA Carte on Facebook for updates on their upcoming projects.