Volume 9, Issue 3
Our Student Centre, which once stood on the mezzanine floor of the law building, last year shut down. Administration at the university has been ‘rationalised’ and centralised in the new Stop One. It is due to be replaced by a ‘Student Enrichment Centre’. I’m here going to propose that a part of this Enrichment Centre should be dedicated to a Food Co-operative.
Cheap, Responsibly-Sourced Food
Lunch at the law school is rubbish. We either have to bring our own food or we have to pay like $14 for a sandwich at one of the over-priced cafes. Sushi is a cheaper option but I am now beyond sick of it.
A food co-op on the mezzanine floor could provide a cheap lunch, sourced so far as is possible from local farmers. We could even use the produce of the Melbourne Uni Community Garden. The menu would be seasonal and so changing, thus guarding against uninspiring monotony. $5-7 for a healthy meal which you can feel good about? Yes please!
Famously, coffee is the life-blood of law students. Currently, however, we’re having to fork out $4 a cup. If we had a food co-op we could organise our coffee far more cheaply. Bulk buy coffee beans and, voila, we’ll have cheap, delicious cafetiere coffee more or less on tap two floors down from the library. The student body would collectively save well into the thousands, and that’s likely an underestimate. $1 a cup anyone?
Better Mental Health Outcomes
There is strong evidence linking competitiveness with stress. There is also strong evidence that “when we co-operate with others our Oxytocin levels increase, which enhance our feelings of love and affiliation.”
The law school is a very competitive environment and so stress levels are high. This has serious mental health consequences. One way of mitigating that is to bring a dog into the law school every now and then (IMO this doesn’t work – sorry Riley). Another way would be to introduce co-operation and a sense of community. By bringing a Food Co-operative into the law school, which students are able to control, participate in and take advantage of, we could create a cooperative, community environment. This would likely have very positive mental health effects.
How Would it Work?
The Food Co-operative in the student union building on main campus has to move soon due to the proposed demolition of Union House. I have been in contact with them and they have voiced interest in supporting / helping run a Co-op at the law school.
It would not be necessary to have a kitchen constructed on location. Food could be cooked at a community kitchen nearby, such as at the Kathleen Syme Community Centre on Faraday Street, and brought over for serving at the law school.
There would need to be a number of paid staff, but costs could be kept down by students, academic staff and administrative staff volunteering at the co-op.
Students undertaking the Sustainable Business Legal Clinic subject could help with the legal issues involved in setting up the Food Co-op.
The LSS Environment Portfolio could also help with the day-to-day running of the Co-op such as organising volunteers.
Other Benefits Would Include:
(1) the availability of coffee – and perhaps even food - for those late-night sessions in the library (currently we only have 7-Eleven, vending machines and KFC);
(2) less waste than that produced by the individualistic business model used by Porta Via etc – instead of paper cups and plastic wrapping we could use real cups which are returned, washed and re-used;
(3) the Food Co-op at Union House bulk-buys various things like nuts, seeds, rice and toilet paper and sells them at cost to students - we could do that!!
(4) We would control it - and not some anonymous, absentee boss - so if we wanted any changes to how it's run / what’s on offer we could make it happen!
I will be raising this at the Student Forum on Thursday (see below). Come and join me if you’re interested in the idea, or else send me an email to register your interest in joining a working group (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This article was partly inspired by a meeting of the Fair Food Challenge group (see http://www.fairfoodchallenge.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/fairfoodau)
Duncan Wallace is a third-year JD student and is Chief Editor of De Minimis
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Why We Like It When Leo Wins
A Really Weird Show: A Month in Kununurra, WA – Part 2 of 2
At The Movies with Sarah & Tom
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