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On-campus food co-op aims to address food insecurity with bulk grocery purchasing

Best Food Forward, Ohio State’s first food co-op, handed out 400 pounds of free groceries on Jan. 28 as a test-run for future delivery systems. Credit: Ris Twigg | Lantern Reporter

According to one Ohio State study, nearly 15 percent of OSU students don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. OSU’s first food co-op aims to change that.

The student organization Best Food Forward is aiming to eat away at campus food insecurity by providing students with access to fresh, affordable produce through the process of bulk-buying.

Corey Keyser, president of Best Food Forward and a second-year in neuroscience and philosophy, said the organization’s main goal is to feed people healthy food at an affordable price.

“We can get wholesale food from farms around the Columbus community, and when we do that we can get it at up to two-thirds off the cost you would at Kroger or the C-store,” Keyser said.

Every two weeks, 15 members unload, organize and package about 400 pounds of food into bags for each member that buys into the co-op. Members will then be able to pick up the bags from an on-campus location and prepare their food in residence hall kitchens.

Stapled on the outside of each bag are recipes that use ingredients from that week’s food shipment. Students are be able to purchase bags of food from the organization for a set price. The more students that sign up, the cheaper the each bag of food becomes.

The first bulk package of food cost the organization $6 per 8-pound bag, but would cost $12.17 if purchased from Kroger, according to the organization.

Sara Liang, the club’s outreach chair and a second-year studying information systems, said Best Food Forward is different from other bulk-buying organizations because the group will receive its funding through membership.

“With the co-op and bulk buying … it’s all of us working together to help each other,” Liang said. “And it’s financially sustainable, because we don’t rely on donations.”

Jahnavi Murali, secretary of the group and a second-year in chemical engineering, recalled how lucky she was as a child to know where her next meal was coming from, but explained that’s not always the case for some students.

“When times are tough, food is the first thing that comes off the table,” Murali said.

Best Food Forward wants to make sure food stays on students’ plates by focusing on three aspects of food insecurity: geographic, financial and educational.

The geographic aspects relates to how and where students purchase food. The financial aspects refer to the cost of food, and the educational aspects involve the level of cooking knowledge students have.

“Through having bulk purchases we’re making food cheaper, and by having drop-offs on campus you don’t really need a car,” Liang said. “Everything suddenly becomes more accessible.”

The organization started as a project for a team of Eminence Fellows, a group of students in the Honors & Scholars program, who are supposed to develop a service initiative that gives back to the campus community.

“Food brings people together,” Murali said. “Most people have rich memories associated with food.”

One comment

  1. I applaud your efforts on behalf of your fellow students. After working at OSU for many years, I can confirm that students and their food planning is seriously lacking. This is not a skill that all students have been taught or had first hand experience with. If I may suggest, perhaps you could also offer workshops or seminars on meal planning and food purchases. I once had a student employee who kept missing work because of food poisoning. Long story short, he would put his chicken out on the kitchen counter to thaw for the day and 9 or 10 hours later would come home and cook it. Smart student, just not skilled in food prep, purchasing and planning. So excited this is going on!! Bravo and keep up the good work!!

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