UCSD Food Cooperative

I was given the chance to have talk to Shiva Das. Here is what she had to say…

How did you become interested in sustainability? 

I stopped eating meat when I was 11 and became more involved with environmental activism and sustainability communities. One of my biggest interests in sustainability is the impact that easily incorporated lifestyle choices can have on our individual environmental footprints. As college students or younger people, it can be difficult to implement some of the changes more commonly associated with sustainable living – electric cars, solar panels, going zero-waste, and the like. However, nearly all of us are able to make a significant positive impact in our lifestyles by making “smaller” changes such as reducing our consumption of animal products and single-use plastics. I have always been interested in helping people to live more sustainably without sacrificing the comforts or convenience in their lives!

Were you involved with any sustainability organizations on campus while at UCSD and if so, could you talk about your involvement?  

The main organization I am involved with at UCSD is the Food Cooperative (located in the Old Student Center in Muir). The Food Cooperative is a non-profit, non-hierarchical, student-run, and student-owned cooperative (one of four on campus – the others being Groundwork Books, The Che Cafe, and The G-Store). Our main goal is to provide healthy, low-cost vegan food to UCSD! Within this we also work towards combating food insecurity on campus and in the surrounding community through our donation-based free meal program. 

We work towards sustainable business practices in a number of ways. By serving vegan food (and especially locally sourced products, which we aim for), we try to make it easier for people to reduce the water use and emissions associated with their food production. We use reusable dishes and encourage people to bring their own – but we also offer compostable options for on-the-go! In addition to this, we work with the folks over at Roger’s Garden to both buy produce and to compost our food waste.

Could you talk about your projects at The Food Cooperative? What were some of the most valuable things you gained/learned from those experiences?  

My main project at the Food Cooperative is facilitating our basic needs program. I manage the operation and finances of our Pay-It-Forward fund, which allows those in need to obtain free meals, no questions asked. It is largely funded by customer donations in addition to various in-store item sales – for example, 100% of our coffee sales go towards the fund. 

The most valuable thing I have gained from facilitating this program is the knowledge of available resources on campus as well as the opportunity to communicate directly with community members who may be food or housing insecure. The Hub, The Triton Food Pantry, and the Food Cooperative are all resources that I believe not enough people on campus are aware of. 

Why are sustainably minded projects important to you?

Sustainability projects are important to me because while most of us agree that we have reached a critical point with environmental issues, not enough of us know what we can do to help combat them. It is easy to feel as though any positive impact of our individual choices will be drowned out by the damaging choices of large corporations – but this is not the case. Sustainability projects help remind us that environmentalism should not be about placing blame, but about doing what we can to improve our situation.

How have you been adapting to COVID-19?

Adapting to COVID-19 has been difficult between the social isolation and online classes. Thankfully, I live with roommates so I am never without company. As a silver lining, it makes sustainable choices easier since restaurant closures mean less single-use packaging and utensils. I am fortunate not to be in a high risk population or have my life severely impacted by this situation, and I truly feel for those who do. I think the most important thing to do right now is make sure to check in on each other (especially if you know someone who is quarantined alone), and if we are able, to donate to organizations like Feeding America which are helping people through this difficult time.

Sustainability Focused Internship

National City Chamber of Commerce is offering sustainability-focused internships to students who are looking for more opportunities in sustainability, business, border relations or event planning.

The Chamber is looking for an intern who can assist with the Binational Sustainability Conference!

Deadline to apply is May 18, 2020!

If you have any questions feel free to contact Stephanie Hernandez, a member of the board of National City Chamber at stephanie.hernandez@energycenter.org

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Triton Food Pantry

I was given the chance to speak with Alexis Wesley, Lead Manager at the Triton Food Pantry.

How did you become interested in sustainability? 

I became involved in sustainability primarily through my work with the Triton Food Pantry, beginning in my first year at UCSD. Now in my third year at UCSD, I have witnessed the significant effects of sustainability on our environment, specifically in regards to food waste and providing our food insecure population with the proper nutrition and resources to thrive at UCSD and beyond.

Were you involved with any sustainability organizations on campus while at UCSD and if so, could you talk about your involvement?  

Through my work with the Triton Food Pantry and various organizations on campus, I have been able to work alongside individuals in the Student Sustainability Collective, the Inter-Sustainability Collective, and Econauts, as well as various gardens on campus, such as Roger’s Garden or the Marshall Community Garden. My interactions and work with these organizations has further strengthened my knowledge of and passion for sustainability as well. 

Could you talk about your projects at Procurement?

The Triton Food Pantry aims to best serve our food insecure population while achieving our sustainability-related goals. We are constantly working to improve our sustainability efforts in regards to our normal methods of operations, events, and any projects we see through. Our most recent sustainability projects have been our zero-waste events partnering with HDH, in which we provide participants with reusable food containers in pursuit of lessening the environmental impact of one-use containers. We also encourage our users to bring their own reusable bags while obtaining items from the pantry in pursuit of eliminating plastic bag usage in our pantry. 

The pantry also prides itself in partnering with gardens and various organizations on and off campus in pursuit of lessening and eliminating food waste and negative environmental impacts. However, due to the effects of COVID-19, we have altered our policies in pursuit of protecting the health of our users, managers, and community as a whole; we look forward to resuming our normal methods of operations and the sustainability efforts we aim for as soon as the health of our community is ensured after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What were some of the most valuable things you gained/learned from those experiences? Why are sustainably minded projects important to you?

 Through my work with the Triton Food Pantry and our various efforts and achievements in sustainability, I have learned the valuable importance of zero-waste initiatives and efforts to end waste of all types. Sustainability is essential in preserving the purity of our environment and the commodities produced within our systems, specifically in regards to food items. I have witnessed the various efforts of our community in prioritizing sustainability, while also providing our population with the nutrition needed for a successful and impactful future; efforts such as hydroponics and bio-cultural diversity in our community are commendable in improving our environment and achieving sustainability goals. 

How have you been adapting to COVID-19?

COVID-19 has presented our community with a multitude of challenges of which I have not personally witnessed before, and therefore I am prioritizing my work with the Triton Food Pantry alongside self-care and sustainable activities. Situations such as these really bring to light the importance of staying in touch with loved ones, friends and co-workers, as well as appreciating the environment in which we live in; I have been prioritizing these actions and appreciations to a great extent these days. 

Due to the COVID-19 situation, the Triton Food Pantry has altered its methods of operations to a pick-up window-style service, in which users fill out a form with items they are in need of and a time in which they are able to pick them up from our resource. We have also altered our methods to include social distancing and increased disinfecting in our resource in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Triton Food Pantry is also initiating projects such as a Mobile Pantry, in which individuals can obtain items in pre-packaged bags at various locations surrounding the UCSD area. We aim to provide our food insecure population with the proper nutrition while at UCSD, while also protecting the health of our users, managers, and community; our altered operations and new projects are in pursuit of these goals. Throughout the COVID-19 situation, the Triton Food Pantry will remain open, prioritizing health, safety, and sustainability as always. Thank you!