From Cowell Coffee Shop to Food Pantry

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The Cowell Coffee Shop, which opened in 1985, will cease its cafe operations and be reopened as a basic needs hub with a food pantry and cooking workshops as early as fall 2018.

Part of the process of designing the basic needs hub involved two open forums for students to give feedback on April 10. The forums, hosted by staff and student members of the Basic Needs Hub Working Group, didn’t attract any attendees.

Among the members in attendance was co-chair Tim Galarneau, who is also a community-engaged education coordinator at the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems Farm. He said one of the main reasons for the upcoming changes is the widespread impact of food insecurity among the student population.

“The discussion around the Cowell Coffee Shop is exploring how to create a cafe-like experience, with workshops available and an ongoing tea and coffee service so people can go study, meet up with a friend and not worry about what’s in their wallet,” Galarneau said.

A major component of the new hub will be an upstairs food pantry. Members of the working group hope this pantry will give students better access to food resources than other existing campus-run pantries like the Slug Support food pantry at Hahn Student Services because it will have a larger space in a more convenient location for students.

The hub’s main room will have a study space with free self-serve tea and coffee, and potentially a community fridge system with donated food for cheap meals, available to those who wish to financially support the space, Galarneau said.

The revamped space will also feature food and cooking-related workshops, said Arden Rosenthal, the Basic Needs Workshop coordinator and second-year Cowell affiliate. This is partially a response to Colleges, Housing and Educational Services removing the rule that apartment residents must have a meal plan for next year after students demanded the ability to opt out.

The basic needs hub is part of a larger movement aiming to alleviate food insecurity faced by students across the UC system. Rosenthal hopes these changes will help more students understand the food situations of their peers.

“It doesn’t matter how many students on this campus are food insecure,” Rosenthal said. “If even one person on this campus is having an issue, that affects all of us, and that’s something we need to learn. This space will be a physical representation of the change that we students can create.”


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