May saw the grand opening of the Imperial College food cooperative. A venture that took a year of intense planning, but could see a huge shift in student thinking.
I first heard about plans to create a food cooperative at the University at the London Climate Forum back in November. At this point it was pretty early stages of planning, there had been no official meetings and there was no real idea of how this project could be funded. But the sheer enthusiasm of those involved thrilled me.
The project immediately caught my interest. I’m a huge advocate of a cooperative business structure; not only does it allow high quality products wholesale and the saving passed directly to consumers, it also allows for easy sharing of ideas as all members are on an equal level. In the world of business cooperatives are owned and run by and for their members be they customers or employees. Cooperatives are encourages to keep in regular contact with other cooperatives allowing them to act together to build a better world and managers are often voted into their seats.
This particular cooperative is entirely non-profit, with the 5% addition going directly to the next round of purchases and to the expansion of the stall. It has been created and is run entirely by volunteers.
The first month of sales has brought several things to light. First of all many of the people who came to the stall were not the kind of people who would generally take the time to visit organic or fairtrade stalls, however, the ease of access on campus made it an easy decision for them. These people were very much interested in supporting organic produce. Secondly, there were some customers who did not entirely understand the benefits of fairtrade or organic produce, and this stall was a great way of informing them.
This project could not have been a success without two healthy donations, and with possible further donations available in the future for new enterprises this is likely to be a very successful project. Meetings are currently being organised to plan the development of the cooperative for the next university year. I look forward to seeing this project grow and grow.