Food glorious food (co-operative)

Students are not exactly known for their love of great cuisine. If they had a motto for their food purchasing decisions it would probably be ‘the cheaper the food, the bigger the beer budget’ (not that I would know). But rather than encouraging students to head off to the nearest McD’s, a food co-op has been launched at the University of Manchester. It aims to help students buy quality ethical food on the cheap.

Supported by People & Planet and Manchester Young Greens, with the significant input by University of Manchester student Dan Hart, the project already has over 80 paying members, and close to 200 members overall. That’s not bad, considering they only officially launched February 7th.

The co-op is run by over 20 volunteers. It buys food in bulk from ethical wholesalers Suma and then marking up the prices to the closest 5p to cover publicity expense and possible waste. The food is then sold every Tuesday at a stall in the beer garden of Manchester University’s Student Union. Membership (of the princely sum of £2) is required to purchase the goods.

Nick Wilkinson, chair of Manchester Young Greens, who is one of the founding members explains that their prices are pretty competitive- a price comparison is up on their facebook page so you can see for yourself. The coop is also trying to also get deals with local farmers.

“The co-op is built around a few core principles. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a way of putting sustainable food at the heart of the Manchester student’s experience. This means bringing in locally-sourced, seasonal and (where possible) organic produce, and making it directly accessible for students.” – from their facebook page

Dan Hart who was eager to start the student food co-operative got in touch with Nick Wilkinson, chair of Young Greens and they were soon working with Zoe Creighhton-Hird, chair of People and Planet. People and Planet is a student campaigning organisation that is currently running a national food coop campaign. Even so, Nick insists that the Manchester Students’ Food Co-operative is now independent of these groups and most of the volunteers are not affiliated.

MCFly asked the question anyone should ask about student groups – “what happens when the founders leave/hit dissertation hell?” Nick Wilkinson told us that the group has over 20 volunteers from different stages in their university education. “At least one member of the coop is already running for union executive office which will help provide stability…The food coop will also have a stall at freshers fair at the start of the next semester which will help recruit new members.”

: Manchester Students Food Cooperative

:: Price list for the food coop is available here.

:: You can join the coop’s mailing list by getting in touch at mansfcoop[AT]

About arwafreelance

Freelance journalist based in the UK with an interest in the Middle East, environmental issues, Islam-related topics and social issues such as regeneration.
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