The Ritter Hall Annex will be a little bit greener this fall with the debut of a vegetarian co-op café called The Rad Dish.
The co-op is the product of a years worth of work from a group of students from the Office of Sustainability, the Green Council, The Sustainable Business Network of Philadelphia and the Geography & Urban Studies Department.
The Rad Dish is a food distribution outlet that is aimed to cooperate with the needs of the surrounding community. Maxwell Cohen, a senior geography and urban studies major, had the idea to start The Rad Dish after visiting the Down to Earth co-op at the University of Delaware.
The Down to Earth co-op aims to provide students with healthy meals made with local and organic ingredients and the resources to develop valuable skills like cooking, farming and leadership.
“The idea of taking control of both your food system and dollar intrigued me,” Cohen said. “Coming back to Temple after having multiple conversations with people, I realized I wasn’t the only one with this interest in mind.”
Cohen sought assistance from the Office of Sustainability and like-minded Temple students in order to define his vision. Though he is not a vegetarian, Cohen said he does not always crave meat with every meal. He said he also finds vegetarian food options to be much more expensive.
“Most places around Temple, as well as America in general, are very meat-centric,” Cohen said. “I get very confused how it’s also simultaneously the cheapest option.”
Senior Rachael Voluck entered the project shortly after hearing about the idea from Alex Epstein, co-founder of Philadelphia Urban Creators, who was formerly involved with the project. Voluck said she saw Rad Dish as an opportunity to get involved with an issue that personally affected her and decided to take an independent study course along with other members of the original steering committee to strategize their business plan.
“I was inspired to join the steering committee because of my frustrations with the food offerings here at Temple,” Voluck said. “I am a pescatarian, although mostly vegetarian, and have a very hard time finding good food to eat on campus. I am very interested in sustainability – the cooperative movement and ethical business – so Rad Dish was a great opportunity to apply my interests.”
After many meetings with university officials, professors and the Office of Sustainability, the Rad Dish steering committee was able to acquire a space for the co-op in the Ritter Hall Annex. The promotion of the co-op’s menu began in April during a “Potluck with a Purpose” event sponsored by the Green Council.
“It was really interesting at the potluck to see how people changed their views on vegan food once they realized that it’s not just lettuce,” said Katherine Ament, an outreach assistant at the Office of Sustainability, and member of Rad Dish’s steering committee. “Rad Dish’s menu will hopefully consist of all vegetarian and some vegan items, with the option to add meat if someone prefers it.”
Nicole Apsche, a vegetarian and junior studying medicine at Temple, said that a vegetarian café on campus would be very attractive to students—particularly freshmen.
“Temple is definitely the hardest place to be a vegetarian, especially when I was a freshman and living off meal plans,” she said. “It was really hard to eat the same single vegetarian option that all the places at the SAC offered, and I would usually be stuck eating salad that had been sitting out all day. I’m sure that all Temple vegetarians appreciate it if there was a café for them on campus.”
Savannah Fitzpatrick, another vegetarian and a junior criminal justice major, agreed.
“I think that now since there are a lot of meat substitutes that have become popular, a café on campus could offer full dishes that feature them, which would be great,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think there would be more than enough people who would be interested in eating there.”
Cohen and Voluck believe that Rad Dish’s emphasis on community and cooperation will differentiate it from other food establishments on campus.
“I think we’ll become a space that people come not only to eat, but also to connect to the community,” Voluck said. “Luckily we’ve acquired an area that fulfills our whole vision – an inclusive space where students can spend time and relax and access healthy food options in Ritter Hall.”
“To me, a Rad Dish success story means connecting people with their food and bringing community members knowledge about where their food comes from,” Cohen said. “I’m excited for others to join us in this feeling of solidarity.”
Sienna Vance can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org