INVESTIGATING STUDENT-RUN CO-OPERATIVES IN NORTH AMERICA
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The goal of the Dalhousie Student Food Co-op Initiative is to establish a student-run food cooperative on Dalhousie‟s Studley Campus. Currently, all food choices on Studley Campus are managed by corporate food service providers, and this system leaves little room for direct student involvement. A student food cooperative could be an ideal way to encourage participation while supplying students and the Dalhousie community with healthy, affordable, and sustainable food options. In order to establish the most appropriate model for a food co-op, we surveyed existing student co-ops across North America. Our questionnaires determined their co-op structure, funding, expenses, membership, and insights into founding a student co-op. To obtain information regarding specific variables particular to Halifax and the Dalhousie community, we interviewed experts in the fields of food regulations, business management, finance, and campus systems. From our questionnaires, we found that university co-ops were particularly successful when they established strong working relationships with the university administration and their campus food service provider. We also found that many of these co-ops are funded by student fee levies. Co-ops recommended that a new co-op focus on maintaining a strong base of active, volunteer members and incorporate the skills of students from a wide range of backgrounds and departments. From the interviews we found that the Student Union Building (SUB) is not the most practical location for a student co-op; however, there are other possible locations available. Other obstacles to consider are Health Canada‟s food regulations and liability insurance policies. In addition, we found that to gain the support of the student union, we will first need conclusive backing from the student body and to create a definitive budget analysis. The next tasks for the Dalhousie Food Co-op Initiative are therefore to become a ratified society under the Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) and apply for society funding. We will then be able to more effectively work in partnership with the DSU, facilities management, food service providers and students to achieve our goal.