Thursday, December 4, 2008

la cooperativa

The other day I was invited to eat lunch with students at the Virgen del Carmen Cooperativa--one of three food cooperatives at the College.  What originally started as a small group of UAC-CP students pooling together what little money the had to be able to eat, has since turned into the College's primary cafeteria system.  Today, most UAC-CP students are socios, or members, of the food cooperatives.

A typical meal at the cooperatives:  a bowl full of rice, potato, lettuce, platano, and meat.

Though it had been a while since I had eaten lunch there, I am no stranger to the co-ops.  When I worked as an administrator at the College in 2004 and 2005 one of my primary responsibilities was to manage the cooperatives.

I worked with groups of students, elected by their peers, to manage each of the co-ops.  The governing board makes and enforces the rules, decides turns for cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping, and manages all the finances.  They also make sure that all members have paid their monthly dues--a difficult task considering students often don't have the money.

Lunch with Jeronimo Payhuanca and Gladys Rivera (the picture taker) at the Cooperativa Virgen del Carmen.

Thanks to the generosity of the Roach Family's gift to the Carmen Pampa Fund, the College is able to subsidize the cost of the food coop.  Though it actually costs about $30 for a student to eat at he co-op (this covers food, salaries, kitchen utensils/appliances, and building upkeep), UAC-CP students each pay approximately $20 per month.  Still, for some students, this cost is prohibitive.  Many look for work off campus or receive help from their parents.

Though the primary function of the co-ops is to ensure that students have three regular meals to eat each day, there are other benefits, too.  For one, students learn (often difficult) lessons about working together as a team.  They also gain valuable leadership experience--I've watched shy, introverted first-year students transform into confident, respected leaders.

That said, the coops are by no means problem-free; it's a lot of work to organize college students to feed nearly 300 people three times a day.  But on the day I visited, as students went out of their way to make sure that I had a bowl full of food and mug full of jugo, I couldn't help but notice the good things about the co-ops--like the camaraderie of sitting together and sharing a meal.


Hugh's mom said...

Every time I have eaten here the food is yummy and plentiful
organic, too

Kathy in MN said...

Looks delicious! Thank you for posting, Sarah! So interesting to read, and I love the photographs. I hope I will be able to visit some day! Kathy in Minnesota