Swarthmore students in the Environmental Studies Capstone seminar are spearheading an effort to publicize Chester’s Community Grocery Co-op. According to Swarthmore religion professor Mark Wallace, the goal is to implement “the theory and practice of ‘permaculture’ — sustainable, community-based agriculture,” by partnering with “a neighborhood store that offers fresh, affordable produce to local residents.” This past Saturday a shuttle ran from campus to the co-op, bringing students to visit the store who are interested in joining next semester or over the summer. This Friday there will be a food tasting and information session in Shane Lounge from 3:30 to 5:00.
The idea for promoting student membership in the co-op developed after a visit by Wallace’s seminar. The co-op provides healthy, fresh food to the city of Chester, which has not had its own grocery store in seventeen years. Modeling the store as a co-op appealed to its founders not only because that ensures the lowest-cost food supply to its members, but because a co-op brings a community together. Members work together, make decisions about the future of the co-op, and share the benefits of its success.
Yusha Hu ’08, one of the students in Wallace’s seminar, feels that the oportunity to meet and work with new people from outside Swarthmore is a particular benefit to joining the co-op. Students “can both be involved in something they feel good about and get access to better and more affordable food.” For those interested in applying, members cost $25 per semester/summer; applications can be submitted online or downloaded for submission by mail.
Having gathered e-mails of over seventy interested students, organizers were pleased to see a steady stream of students taking the shuttle to the co-op on Saturday. The hope is to have a regular shuttle to transport students, including members on their way to work at the co-op. The Chester Co-op “is such a friendly place that while [students] were shopping, they were also chatting with people there,” said Hu. “One student who thought she hated grapefruit was convinced by LarRaine, one of the member-owners, to try a slice, and ended up buying some….”
Swarthmore environmental studies students spent the semester working with the co-op because of its promise of providing a sustainable food source in Chester. Said Wallace, students helped “with grant-writing, local food sourcing, student membership drive, and webpage design.” This includes the co-op’s news blog. Working to improve involvement with the co-op on campus will continue to be a part of the environmental studies program in future semesters.
All students are invited to come sample fresh fruits and vegetables from the co-op on Friday, May 2 at 3:30 in Shane Lounge and learn about the benefits of membership.