Updated: Nov 2, 2018
On an unusually warm Monday morning in October, Live Green UMich had the opportunity to sit down with Emily, a representative from the Ann Arbor Student Food Co.
As we began our chat, Emily shared with us a bit about the club’s main objective and how it is fulfilled: selling affordable produce to students through the assembly of twice-weekly pop-up produce stands in Mason Hall.
Student Food Co. orders it’s produce from a local distributor called Frog Holler (located in Ann Arbor). The produce is delivered to campus and sold at the aforementioned pop-up stand on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Any leftovers are donated to another club at the University of Michigan. And, in addition to selling produce, Student Food Co. also hands out recipe cards for easy and healthy food preparation and occasionally hosts cooking events.
Emily told us that the inspiration behind Student Food Co.’s inauguration was “the lack of cheap, fresh foods for students, especially once they…don’t have access to dining halls. There aren’t many nearby grocery stores.” Replenish is the only grocer at the edge of campus grounds, but its produce is not affordable for all students. And, per Emily, “Campus Farms does an incredible job of growing fruits and vegetables,” but they don’t often sell it directly to the student body. Instead, most of the farm’s yield goes to dining halls.
Emily hopes that, one day, there will be an affordable grocery store that is walking distance from the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus. She–and many others–are currently working with the Central Student Government to realize this idea.
In the meantime, the Student Food Co. hopes to bring a pop-up stand to North Campus and to sell more and a greater variety of produce during expanded hours. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of manpower required for an expansion like this make it a difficult task, especially when “many people do not know that [the club] even [exists].”
We asked why this may be the case; Emily’s assessment highlighted students’ busyness, their preoccupation with things outside of the realm of fresh produce, and their diversity. She noted that there are students who can afford to eat out every night or a few nights a week. These students may not notice the lack of affordable, fresh produce near campus with as much clarity as students who cannot afford to eat out as often. In Emily’s words, “People only really start getting involved [with an issue] when it’s a major problem affecting everyone.” Since this lack of affordable, fresh produce is not impacting everyone, awareness of the problem is not widespread. People are putting their energy in other places.
Aside from their main objective of delivering affordable and fresh produce to UM students, Student Food Co. also hopes to increase awareness in regard to the need for a truly local grocery store hosting sustainably-sourced produce. This year, the club took part in Harvest Fest, which is, per Emily, “an extremely small version of Festifall for sustainability clubs.” The central purpose of Harvest Fest is twofold: to raise awareness of and to celebrate sustainability on campus.
We hope that posts like this one can increase student awareness in regard to sustainability initiatives and sustainability-based organizations on campus like the Ann Arbor Student Food Co. Without awareness, we can’t and won’t take advantage of a resource like the pop-up produce stand sitting at our doorstep. Without awareness, we can’t and won’t celebrate these movements towards a healthy and sustainable campus and student lifestyle.
Interested in learning more about Student Food Co.? Check out their website.