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UCSD Food Co-op: a great force for bringing people together

Chasing the scoop

Lana Murray trumpets the dish du jour, Thai Green Curry. At $2.50, a deal.
Lana Murray trumpets the dish du jour, Thai Green Curry. At $2.50, a deal.

“Sorry, we have none left.”

Whu? It’s 1 pm and they’ve run out of lunch already? Maybe they’re out to lunch. And here I had been so looking forward to this Indian curry — for just $2.50, here at UCSD’s Food Co-op, on the edge of the eucalyptus forest, maybe 15 minutes’ walk from the campus’s main trolley station. That price tag matters, because I am on the edge of broke just now. Not panicking, yet, but watching every outlay. So 24 hours later, I’m back again. This time, I make sure I’m there at 11 am, right when they open for lunch. I’ve passed Graffiti Park, with its hand-painted signs (“Refugees Need Our Help @ the Border,” “Free Gaza”), a cluster of student service buildings like The HUB, Basic Needs Center, and a General Store with a Palestinian flag draped over part of its wall. What I’m looking for is another sort of sign: chalk on a blackboard, reading, “Food Cooperative. Vegan Food. Non-Hierarchy. Student-Run! Interested? STOP BY.”

Beside the door, today’s lunch menu. “Pasta Primavera. $2.50/scoop.”

Uh, that’s the menu?

“That’s it,” says the girl inside, behind the counter. “One dish per day. Except, we usually have sambusas as well, $1.30 each, but we didn’t get them today.”

“Ho-Kay. Let’s go with pasta,” I say. Fact is, walking up from the Central Campus trolley station has put a hunger on me. I’m ready to gobble down whatever. Most customers are eating outside. Others sit in the comfy interior’s gloom, chewing, sipping, chatting quietly, or heads-down in their laptops and phones.

Zucchini and other good veggies fuel this Pasta Primavera.

I grab a Bakelite plate and, using the big spoon provided, scoop up a pile of twirly pasta laced with chunks of veggies like zucchini, tomatoes, string beans, and kale. Looks like garlic and olive oil for the sauce. Then, before I realize what I’m doing, I’ve taken another scoop.

“How many scoops?” asks the cash register gal, Lana.

“Uh, two, I guess,” I confess.

“Five dollars,” she says. “Two-fifty per.”

Oh man, if I’d realized that, I would have supersized the first scoop. Still, can’t complain. I get a glass of water and take it all out to the dappled sunlight of the patio. The others at my table don’t talk. They’re clacking away at their keyboards. Maybe essays they have to hand in after lunch. I remind myself: these students are under pressure. And they have to be the cream of the crop. Saw somewhere that UCSD is the second-most applied-for University in the nation, right behind UCLA. My main question, though, is: will this fill me up? And the answer is, surprisingly, yes. It’s not the most exciting taste experience I’ve ever had; in fact, it’s a little bland. On the other hand, there’s a genuine garlic taste to the pasta and plenty of sautéed veggies, so no complaints. And hey, five buckeroos.

Sponsored
Sponsored

“A lot of students don’t have much money,” says Lana. She’s a member of the co-operative, a fourth-year student who moved from statistics to urban studies. Volunteers here. “Some also have allergies, or religious restrictions, so the meal planning committee focuses on vegan food, because it’s the most accessible for the most people. And you don’t have to deal with raw meat or things like that, which make it way more complicated to run a business. Plus, we get lots of produce donated, and then we use our own funds to purchase things like rice, lentils, noodles. And we have volunteers in the morning who make the food, who scale up home-cook recipes, to serve around 50 people per day. Except I think we want to increase that, because we’re kinda running out very quickly these days.”

Poster for the weekly giveaway of food every Friday lunchtime.

Yeah, like yesterday. But Lana says it’s a daily miracle that they get the food out at all. “We’re completely student-run. The main purpose has been to fight against food insecurity. Food is very expensive, especially if you’re here studying on campus all day, trying to pay for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That could be easily $20-30 per day. So this hopefully alleviates some of the burden from the students we’re able to feed.”

The menu this week, she says, is typical. “Tuesday we had South Indian tomato curry with dahl (lentils); yesterday, Thai green curry; today, Thursday, your pasta primavera, with zucchini, tomatoes, string beans, kale, garlic, olive oil for the sauce. And then tomorrow, Friday, is Mexican beans and rice.”

How do they keep the prices so low? She says using volunteers and having a really low rent helps. “But we are going to have to deal with lease negotiations next year, so it is a little scary for food cooperatives like us.” She says that most of all, they want this to be a safe place for people. “Because yes, there are increased tensions on-campus with the conflicts going on.” (Israel-Hamas, Ukraine/Russia.) “There are protests, and people don’t feel really safe. I hope that women wearing the hijab feel safe in here, and have people to talk to. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of community spaces on-campus where you can make friends. A lot of isolation happens. We feel we can help. Because that’s the thing about food: it is a great force for bringing people together. Vegan food can be boring, but we do try to make it interesting, with spices and natural flavors. But yeah, we use a lot of garbanzo beans, rice, pasta, and veggies like kale, radishes, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes. Sometimes the food could be better, but we’re doing our best, and it’s still edible. That’s what counts.”

I’m about to go, when Lana calls out: “Oh! And on Fridays, the food is free. Yeah! I forgot. Food’s free on Fridays. Tomorrow. It’s Mexican rice and beans. Come back tomorrow!”

The Place: UCSD Food Co-op, 9500 Gilman Drive, Unit 0323, La Jolla, tel: 760 886-0232

Hours: 10am-4pm Monday to Friday (lunch, 11am till run out), closed Saturdays, Sundays

Prices: one dish per day, $2.50 per scoop; weekly choices include Indian tomato curry with dahl (lentils); Thai green curry; pasta Primavera with zucchini, tomatoes, string beans, kale; Mexican beans and rice

Trolley: Blue Line

Nearest Trolley Stop: UCSD Central Campus Station

Bus: 30

Nearest Bus Stop: Gilman Drive and Myers Drive

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Lana Murray trumpets the dish du jour, Thai Green Curry. At $2.50, a deal.
Lana Murray trumpets the dish du jour, Thai Green Curry. At $2.50, a deal.

“Sorry, we have none left.”

Whu? It’s 1 pm and they’ve run out of lunch already? Maybe they’re out to lunch. And here I had been so looking forward to this Indian curry — for just $2.50, here at UCSD’s Food Co-op, on the edge of the eucalyptus forest, maybe 15 minutes’ walk from the campus’s main trolley station. That price tag matters, because I am on the edge of broke just now. Not panicking, yet, but watching every outlay. So 24 hours later, I’m back again. This time, I make sure I’m there at 11 am, right when they open for lunch. I’ve passed Graffiti Park, with its hand-painted signs (“Refugees Need Our Help @ the Border,” “Free Gaza”), a cluster of student service buildings like The HUB, Basic Needs Center, and a General Store with a Palestinian flag draped over part of its wall. What I’m looking for is another sort of sign: chalk on a blackboard, reading, “Food Cooperative. Vegan Food. Non-Hierarchy. Student-Run! Interested? STOP BY.”

Beside the door, today’s lunch menu. “Pasta Primavera. $2.50/scoop.”

Uh, that’s the menu?

“That’s it,” says the girl inside, behind the counter. “One dish per day. Except, we usually have sambusas as well, $1.30 each, but we didn’t get them today.”

“Ho-Kay. Let’s go with pasta,” I say. Fact is, walking up from the Central Campus trolley station has put a hunger on me. I’m ready to gobble down whatever. Most customers are eating outside. Others sit in the comfy interior’s gloom, chewing, sipping, chatting quietly, or heads-down in their laptops and phones.

Zucchini and other good veggies fuel this Pasta Primavera.

I grab a Bakelite plate and, using the big spoon provided, scoop up a pile of twirly pasta laced with chunks of veggies like zucchini, tomatoes, string beans, and kale. Looks like garlic and olive oil for the sauce. Then, before I realize what I’m doing, I’ve taken another scoop.

“How many scoops?” asks the cash register gal, Lana.

“Uh, two, I guess,” I confess.

“Five dollars,” she says. “Two-fifty per.”

Oh man, if I’d realized that, I would have supersized the first scoop. Still, can’t complain. I get a glass of water and take it all out to the dappled sunlight of the patio. The others at my table don’t talk. They’re clacking away at their keyboards. Maybe essays they have to hand in after lunch. I remind myself: these students are under pressure. And they have to be the cream of the crop. Saw somewhere that UCSD is the second-most applied-for University in the nation, right behind UCLA. My main question, though, is: will this fill me up? And the answer is, surprisingly, yes. It’s not the most exciting taste experience I’ve ever had; in fact, it’s a little bland. On the other hand, there’s a genuine garlic taste to the pasta and plenty of sautéed veggies, so no complaints. And hey, five buckeroos.

Sponsored
Sponsored

“A lot of students don’t have much money,” says Lana. She’s a member of the co-operative, a fourth-year student who moved from statistics to urban studies. Volunteers here. “Some also have allergies, or religious restrictions, so the meal planning committee focuses on vegan food, because it’s the most accessible for the most people. And you don’t have to deal with raw meat or things like that, which make it way more complicated to run a business. Plus, we get lots of produce donated, and then we use our own funds to purchase things like rice, lentils, noodles. And we have volunteers in the morning who make the food, who scale up home-cook recipes, to serve around 50 people per day. Except I think we want to increase that, because we’re kinda running out very quickly these days.”

Poster for the weekly giveaway of food every Friday lunchtime.

Yeah, like yesterday. But Lana says it’s a daily miracle that they get the food out at all. “We’re completely student-run. The main purpose has been to fight against food insecurity. Food is very expensive, especially if you’re here studying on campus all day, trying to pay for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That could be easily $20-30 per day. So this hopefully alleviates some of the burden from the students we’re able to feed.”

The menu this week, she says, is typical. “Tuesday we had South Indian tomato curry with dahl (lentils); yesterday, Thai green curry; today, Thursday, your pasta primavera, with zucchini, tomatoes, string beans, kale, garlic, olive oil for the sauce. And then tomorrow, Friday, is Mexican beans and rice.”

How do they keep the prices so low? She says using volunteers and having a really low rent helps. “But we are going to have to deal with lease negotiations next year, so it is a little scary for food cooperatives like us.” She says that most of all, they want this to be a safe place for people. “Because yes, there are increased tensions on-campus with the conflicts going on.” (Israel-Hamas, Ukraine/Russia.) “There are protests, and people don’t feel really safe. I hope that women wearing the hijab feel safe in here, and have people to talk to. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of community spaces on-campus where you can make friends. A lot of isolation happens. We feel we can help. Because that’s the thing about food: it is a great force for bringing people together. Vegan food can be boring, but we do try to make it interesting, with spices and natural flavors. But yeah, we use a lot of garbanzo beans, rice, pasta, and veggies like kale, radishes, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes. Sometimes the food could be better, but we’re doing our best, and it’s still edible. That’s what counts.”

I’m about to go, when Lana calls out: “Oh! And on Fridays, the food is free. Yeah! I forgot. Food’s free on Fridays. Tomorrow. It’s Mexican rice and beans. Come back tomorrow!”

The Place: UCSD Food Co-op, 9500 Gilman Drive, Unit 0323, La Jolla, tel: 760 886-0232

Hours: 10am-4pm Monday to Friday (lunch, 11am till run out), closed Saturdays, Sundays

Prices: one dish per day, $2.50 per scoop; weekly choices include Indian tomato curry with dahl (lentils); Thai green curry; pasta Primavera with zucchini, tomatoes, string beans, kale; Mexican beans and rice

Trolley: Blue Line

Nearest Trolley Stop: UCSD Central Campus Station

Bus: 30

Nearest Bus Stop: Gilman Drive and Myers Drive

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