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WWU food group starts bulk buying club

Mar 2nd, 2012 | Category: Community

by Jessica Harbert

A group of Western Washington University students have come together to create the WWU Food Revolution group, focusing on food sustainability and working towards offering more locally produced food to Western students and the community.
The group – whose ultimate goal is to create an on-campus food cooperative – recently organized a bulk buying club as an alternative to other food options on campus.

Students Francesca and Forest with some of their bulk food order. PHOTO BY CHELSEA GABRIELLE

The club placed its first order in early February, with a total of 35 people purchasing goods, said Chelsea Enwall, a Western student and member of the WWU Food Revolution group.

A bulk buying club allows a number of people to buy a large quantity of food at a lower price and equally distribute the food, Enwall said. The lower price makes the product more affordable for each person.

Currently the bulk buying club consists of Western students and a few faculty members, but the group is open to the public, Enwall said.

“I would really like to have this be more than an on campus thing,” she added. “Also a bulk buying club is a method of subverting the larger food system.”

The concept of bulk buying addresses several issues, including cheaper cost of foods ordered in bulk, less packaging and building a sense of community. The club brings in only the goods that people need so there is no mark up on prices, said Adam Gillman, Western student and member of the WWU Food Revolution group. Through the first bulk buying session, Gillman bought a five-pound bag of dates, which cost $13 compared to $30 to $40 at the grocery store, he said.

“People can really save money,” Gillman added. “There is nothing college students love more than saving money.”

The bulk product is currently being purchased from Azure Standard, a bulk and natural food company out of Dufur, Oregon. The group hopes to be able to offer locally grown produce as a part of the bulk buying club in the future, giving club members options of products from and around Whatcom County, Enwall said. Currently the club offers a variety of goods, including oils, dried fruits, nuts, grains, spices, soap, different kinds of beans, among other choices, Gillman said.

The group is working on the logistics of the bulk buying club, currently organizing a specific place on campus where the product can be picked up regularly, Enwall said. In addition, they are seeking a functional method to deal with the cash flow from the club, while struggling with the technicalities of being a Western Associated Student club and working with the administration on campus.

The bulk ordering schedule is available on the group’s website (wwufoodrevolution.com), along with a list of goods available and the sign up information to become a member.

Other colleges have worked on the same goal as the WWU Food Revolution group. At the University of British Columbia, the group UBC Sprouts operated as a bulk buying club for seven years before they morphed into a cooperative, Enwall said. Groups like this have been a resource to Western’s group, offering information on past work and challenges encountered through the process. In addition, Western’s group is also in contact with the University of Washington Student Food Cooperative, a group that has been working on their project for three years, Enwall said, and is working through the same company as Western’s bulk buying club.

“I am looking forward to seeing what this turns into and being more engaged in the Bellingham community,” Enwall said.

The Food Revolution group has 10 to 12 core members, and hopes to grow in the future, Gillman said. The public is welcome to attend the group’s meetings at the Western Washington University library, Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.

For more information, visit wwufoodrevolution.com/ or follow the group’s Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/wwufoodcoop/

Published in the March 2012 issue of Grow Northwest magazine.

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