Scott: Co-op promotes sustainability

Temple’s new food cooperative provides an ethical food option for students.

Emily Scott

Emily ScottI’ve only been on Main Campus for about a week and I’m already jaded by the basic offerings of the Johnson and Hardwick Dining Hall. With that being said, I have a genuine concern for the food I put into my body.

I stumbled upon the Rad Dish Food Co-op booth during Temple Fest and was immediately intrigued by the concept. With the first student-run food cooperative in the city of Philadelphia coming this October, I believe it will bring to life a realization of how simple it can be to live sustainably while on a college budget.

The Rad Dish Food Co-op is a student run food cooperative café and grocer. From gastronomically sound menu items to a sourcing policy of locally grown produce, the members of this cooperative hope to establish a learning tool on the subject of sustainable food systems, business and entrepreneurship.

Last semester, the students involved with Rad Dish launched their “Real Food” campaign, where they walked through Main Campus and asked other students what the term “real food” means to them. According to their market research, 86 percent of students felt dissatisfied with their food options at Temple.

They also asked the dining hall frequenters if they had an idea where their J&H burgers were coming from. Most students were at a loss.

“It’s all the same wherever you go. It’s pizza, burgers, salad, and maybe one or two esoteric types of food,” freshman Andrew Grochowski said. The mechanical engineering major is also on the men’s crew team and tries to maintain a healthy diet.

Students are interested in healthier and in the most accurate terms, organic food. The problem is that access to that on Main Campus is limited. As a freshman living on Main Campus, I am forced by my residence hall contract to spend at least a thousand dollars on a meal plan that restricts us to one of three places that serve the same items almost every day.

There’s often criticism over what exactly “organic” means. The problem is that there can be several different definitions of the word organic and most people follow the one defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“It doesn’t necessarily need to be USDA-approved organic because that label is biased and there is some weird packaging that they do,” Jonathan Kardos, sourcing director for Rad Dish said.

The Rad Dish definition is anything considered fair trade or ethical. There aren’t any chemicals being used and it is made sure that no soil erosion occurs, the senior strategic communications major said.

An unconventional aspect of food cooperatives is their democratic quality and how co-op members decide the menu items, sources and prices. The cooperative implements a governance structure that makes all of the decisions in regards to the food co-op. There is a board of directors, advisors, managers and general committee members.

One of the policy decisions to be made includes, Rad Dish utilizing a sourcing policy through Common Market, a Philadelphia local food distributor.

“Our definition of local is within 150 miles,” Kardos said. “That’s pretty key for us, because there is something to be said about supporting your local economy.”

Along with the organic and vegetarian food options, the entire business plan is friendly toward the environment. The café and grocer will not be selling water bottles or soda cans. Rad Dish is also purchasing renewable energy certificates, so the space will be running on green energy.

“Everything is trying to be whole food or real food and not contribute to waste,” Kathleen Grady, director of the Office of Sustainability, said.

Rad Dish hopes to not only serve as a café and grocer, but also as a new hangout on campus for students to enjoy healthier alternatives and be environmentally conscious at the same time. The cooperative team hopes to showcase art from Tyler and hold other school-related events in the future.

“How do we foster conversation?” Grady asked.

With sustainability, the reason it always appears on the backburner is because people do not realize how easy it is to live sustainably. Of the sustainability topics, food justice is one of the most interesting ones and easy to create discussion on.

I was pretty skeptical at first about the concept of promoting sustainability through an organic café and grocer that doesn’t accept Diamond Dollars. The more I spoke to the individuals involved and learned about the fundamentals behind a food cooperative, however, the more my view changed. Food is a main priority of students on a college campus; it’s the first thing I think about after getting out of my midday class, so why not use that as a model for sustainability?

The Rad Dish co-op will serve as a place not only to try some organic tabbouleh salad, but also to allow students to further question what else they can do to live a healthier, better life.

Emily Scott can be reached at and on twitter @emilyscott315

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