Developing a Cooperative Food Business for Food-Insecure University Students

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Food insecurity among university students in the U.S. is a pressing sustainability problem due to its prevalence, complex socio-economic drivers, and adverse effects. A national survey from the Hope Center

Food insecurity among university students in the U.S. is a pressing sustainability problem due to its prevalence, complex socio-economic drivers, and adverse effects. A national survey from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice found that 45% of university students (n=86,000) had experienced some form of food insecurity in the past 30 days (Goldrick-Rab et al., 2019). Students at Arizona State University (ASU) are similarly impacted by this sustainability problem—a recent study found that approximately 35% of ASU students have experienced food insecurity (Bruening et al., 2016). Food insecurity has a variety of detrimental effects on university students’ physical health, psychological well-being, and academic achievement (El Zien et al., 2019; Payne-Sturges et al., 2018; Meza et al., 2019), and these resulting issues have complex inter-regional, intrageneration, and intergenerational implications.
To mitigate food insecurity among university students, the project proposes the development of a sustainable, student-run food cooperative business at Arizona State University (ASU). Food cooperative businesses have long been utilized by communities to advance food access, economic self-determination, and food justice (DePasquale, Sarang, & Vena, 2017), so the project aims to lay the foundation for the establishment of such an enterprise at ASU. Through the development of an enterprise start-up plan and the execution of preliminary coalition-building efforts, the project seeks to demonstrate the plausibility of this solution while empowering stakeholders with the strategies needed to enact it.