According to the US Census Bureau, the average American consumer spends over $100 each month on meat and produce alone. The Community Food Co-op of Utah can help SLCC students cut that expense in half.
Founded by the Crossroads Urban Center, the Community Food Co-op of Utah is a volunteer-based non-profit organization. It is designed to help people save money on food, support local businesses and strengthen the community. By ordering in bulk and buying from local businesses, the Co-op is able to offer food at lower prices.
“The more people who join, the cheaper it gets,” says Autumn Salinas, a member of the SLCC Service Council.
Another way the Co-op keeps prices affordable is by buying locally. Products from local businesses require less shipping. This reduces transportation costs. Products also spend less time in transit, so they have a longer shelf life.
“The shelf life for the Co-op food compared to the grocery store is twice as long,” says Salinas.
Salinas, along with fellow Service Council member Whitney Rose, got involved with the Co-op program through the Thayne Center for Service and Learning on campus. Working with the Thayne Center, they were able to establish a distribution site for their local Co-op group at SLCC’s Taylorsville Redwood Campus. The site is located in the portable buildings to the north of the main campus entrance.
“It’s an excellent program for students,” says Rose. “I think all of us students would like to save some money.”
The standard share available through the Co-op costs $24 and consists of one meat share and one produce share. On average, that amounts to about five pounds of meat and eight different varieties of fruits and vegetables. The specific products change depending on the season. Add-ons are also available and include items such as Stoneground sourdough bread, Nutty Guys’ peanut butter, and organic teas and coffees.
The Co-op accepts food orders once a month, which are normally due by the second Friday of the month. They are usually ready for pick-up on the last Saturday of the month at the distribution site the member selected in the order form. Orders can be placed by phone, mail, fax, in person or online at the Co-op website: www.foodco-op.net.
“I think people are worried about the hassle it’s going to be,” says Rose. “I thought it’d be a hassle, too, but they shoot you an email that’s like, ‘Hey remember to order by this day.’ And you just go online as you get the email and select what you want. It’s really easy.”
As an alternative to placing an order in advance, there is also the Co-op Market Sale on the Monday after the orders are distributed. It is held at the Co-op warehouse, located at 1726 S. 700 W. in Salt Lake City.
To help strengthen the community, Co-op members are expected to volunteer two hours of their time for every month that they order food. That service can take any form but must be free of charge and done for someone outside of the member’s family. Service hours are logged each distribution day as members pick up their orders.
The Co-op website provides links to various service opportunities around the Valley, as well as opportunities within the Co-op organization itself. Volunteer jobs with the Co-op include answering calls, taking orders, and processing paperwork. There is also a “Boxing Party” where members can socialize and enjoy refreshments as they package the meat orders for the month.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” says Salinas. She and Rose encourage other SLCC students to get involved in the Co-op as well.
“It’s easier, it’s cheaper, it’s better food, it’s better for you,” says Rose. “And it gives you a chance to give back to your community. It’s awesome.”
More information about the Co-op is available at www.foodco-op.net.