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Local Foods COOP offers students easy way to eat well

By Tamara Grbusic

Located in Main Hall’s fancy Quad, the Local Foods Co-op supplies Grinnell students with nearby foods by serving as an intermediary between the students and farmers. There are several pick-up dates during the semester and ordering takes place a week beforehand, in order for farmers to have enough time to supply the goods.

The Co-op is run by multiple student coordinators that work with with several farmers including KIOWA House of Herbs, Paul’s Grains and Rebel’s Cove Honey. The products offered range from apple butter, jelly and onions to pies, granola and oatmeal.

The organization is entering its third year and still reflects its student-based origins.

“Our organization was started by Hart Ford-Hodges ’10, during the spring semester of 2008. She initially worked with Paul’s Grains of Laurel, Iowa, and distributed grains from her room,” said Kiyan Ng ’14, one of the coordinators.

“After a number of people—friends, professors and fellow students—expressed interest in buying local foods through her, she decided it would be a good idea to expand the project to make ordering from the farmers more accessible to the Grinnell community, and the Co-op was born,” said Sarah Shaughnessy ’13, another coordinator.

The Co-op has gained popularity ever since, generally as a result of the Co-op staff’s hard work and expansive goals.

“Our mission as an organization is supporting the local economy by purchasing from local farms, supporting sustainable agriculture and creating positive ecological incentives for farmers, building community through meals and food events, facilitating relationships between community members, students, staff and farmers, making local, health food options more accessible for everyone in Grinnell, educating people about food purchasing, preparation, and nutrition, as well as bringing Grinnell College and the city of Grinnell closer together,” Ng said.

Since most students are restricted to the Dining Hall food options, looking for healthy additions to diets can be a challenging task. The Local Foods Co-op makes the ordering of various types of locally grown, fresh items possible. The orders are easily accessible and the prices are affordable. While some items are seasonal, there are also regular items on the menu.

“Right now we are offering products from Paul’s Grains, things like quinoa, flour, granola, and wheat berries; Rebel’s Cove Honey, and KIOWA House of Herbs, whose goods range from ground basil, to jams and apple pie,” Shaughnessy said. “KIOWA’s apple butter is fantastic and apparently so is the pancake/waffle mix from Paul’s Grains. In the past, we have also offered produce from Grinnell Heritage Farm and local eggs. It’s all relatively inexpensive. Prices range from $1 for a head of garlic to $9 for a 3 lb. jug of honey.”

Students can order local food through the Co-op’s website. The website has an extensive list of all the different items available, and the order is open a week before the pick-ups.

“We usually contact the farmers two weeks before the order opens, and then we open the order for couple of days, contact the farmers to make sure foods arrive and distribute the food to the buyers,” Ng said.

“Distribution typically takes place in Main Quad kitchen about a week after orders close,” Shaughnessy said .
If students can’t make the pick-up dates, the next one being on April 15, they can still easily buy local food.
“You can only purchase food through the co-op during the monthly ordering sessions, although Kamal at the Phoenix Cafe sells local milk and butter,” Shaughnessy said. “Moreover, almost all of our suppliers sell their products at the bi-weekly farmers market on Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning.”

The coordinators also suggested petitioning to the Dining Hall to get more local food, in order to integrate it better into students’ diets. If that is not an option, however, local foods can always be used as an addition to regular nutrition.

“People who are on meal plan would seek local food as an extra,” Ng said. “For instance, they would have local oatmeal for breakfast, or carrots and granola for snacks.”

“Try to eat foods that are in season, frequent the farmers market. Buy some granola from Paul’s Grains to eat for breakfast!” Ng said. “Cost and location make it almost impossible to eat a diet of entirely local foods, but it’s not as hard as you might think to supplement non-local meals with them.”

The Co-op also hosts several special events.

“Local Foods Co-op usually hosts a Thanksgiving dinner and two potlucks every year,” Ng said. “We have been hosting the Thanksgiving dinner in the Main quad this past few years and the potluck in front of Eco and Food house. Students should watch for the posters and they are welcome to volunteer when events come up.”

“Last semester during parents’ weekend the co-op sponsored a local foods potluck which was really successful,” Shaughnessy said. “Right now we’re planning on hosting another one in the spring, once the weather warms up.”
Convocations held on campus are another source of information about local foods.

“Last semester there was an entire lecture series about corn and earlier this semester the Center for Prairie Studies and the Local Foods Co-op co-hosted a TEDx lecture series about sustainable food systems called Changing the Way We Eat,” Shaughnessy said.

Coordinators also suggested visiting farmers’ markets or emailing the Co-op as a way of acquiring information. The easiest way to be regularly informed, however, is to subscribe to [localfood] mailing list and get all the latest updates, as well as any additional information.

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