Tucked away between the fire stairs and the lifts on level 2 of building 2, the Broadway Food Co-op has in its 10 years developed from a small, shared operation that alternated weeks between UTS and Sydney University, to a shop in its own right operating weekly on the UTS City campus.
"It’s grown a lot over the last couple of years," says the co-op’s volunteer coordinator Ann-Marie Rohlfs, a UTS PhD student in aquatic ecology. "It has a solid core of 10 to 15 volunteers who come regularly every week, and members who occasionally come to help out on top of that."
Grounded in an ethic of avoid, reduce, reuse and then recycle, the co-operative work together to take back control of our food, providing certified organic produce to UTS staff and students. ABC staff and TAFE students and staff are also among the co-op’s customer base.
This year the co-op will further widen its reach through anniversary events on campus. They’ll also collaborate with a Year 1 class at Ultimo Primary School starting a veggie garden as part of a project for the 2012 International Year of Co-operatives (as recognised by the United Nations).
"Organic food can be inaccessible and unaffordable, particularly for students," says Rohlfs. "It’s good to be able to make that a possible option for a lot of people."
Fruit and veggie boxes start at $15 for co-op members and $18 a box for non-members. Packing and pickup take place on Tuesday afternoons, with orders and payments finalised online the week before.
"We try to put as big a variety as we can into the boxes. You’ll probably get a few root vegetables, green leafy vegetables and fruit. You might get five or six different varieties – possibly more if you get a larger box."
The co-op also sells dry foods such as nuts, pulses, legumes, tea, coffee and chocolate, with eggs and herbs also stocked every few weeks. All produce is sourced from within Australia, mostly from the east coast.
Rohlfs sees the connections the co-op fosters across the university as one of its main benefits. "I think UTS can seem very compartmentalised sometimes; it’s often difficult to have contact with people outside your particular area. The co-op lets you connect with other people from across the university who are interested in the same principles and philosophies."
Rohlfs also enjoys the feeling of achieving something tangible in terms of sustainability. "A lot of other environmental issues can really wear you down – complex issues like climate change or coal seam gas mining – so it helps to balance that frustration. I’m still involved in those other things, but I’ve found the co-op a good way to satisfy the feeling that you want to see something change.
"It’s a very hands-on way to feel like you’re contributing to a better system."
For more information about ordering food through the co-op, visit: broadwayfoodcoop.wordpress.com