What the New Economy Means to CoFED

cofed_logoWe asked the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive to share their thoughts on the new economy and how it intersects with their work. CoFED growing the movement of future food co-op leaders.

Here’s what they had to say.

By Farzana Serang, Lauryl Berger-Chun, and Megan Svoboda

CoFED exists to strengthen a solidarity economy based on principles of cooperation and democracy. The student co-ops that CoFED supports are building healthier alternatives to corporate food services and industrial agriculture. They are coming together as economic units to fulfill their common needs and aspirations. Students are challenging traditional business structures and putting theory into practice through things like affirmative action hiring processes, democratic decision-making, and ethical purchasing policies.

cofed_picCoFED supports the work of student-led cooperatives during a very exciting time. Student groups across North America are organizing to create practical tools for alternative economic structures: cooperative food businesses! In this era of the Occupy movement, the student debt crisis, and a growing awareness of the failure of our mainstream food and economic systems, the cooperative movement is gaining more and more popularity in campus settings. We support and connect student organizers as they build more equitable local economic systems.

CoFED workers are currently co-organizing numerous regional gatherings with students, including the Northeast Student Cooperative Convergence and the Mid-Atlantic/Southeast Cooperation Amongst Cooperatives Conference. We are participating in a cooperative incubation training with the Center for Family Life, alongside a student from Kingsborough Community College. We lift up the successes of student groups (such as highlighting the UCLA student team in our soon-to-be-released Bulk Buying Guide!) and facilitate numerous workshops and retreats for students to turn their visions into reality.

All told, we work with more than 31 schools in regions across North America. By empowering students to reconnect with one another and their communities in a grounded, holistic way, we are supporting spaces to build skills not often taught in classrooms. Graduating students who start their own worker-cooperatives, participate in alternative food systems, and engage in related policy issues are the key to growing this emergent movement.

We support students as they leverage the resources of their institutions and their hearts towards community-based economic systems. Student campaigns are bridges connecting their educational institutions with surrounding communities. This is an opportunity to organize our purchasing choices towards local investments that build community wealth. The work that students are doing while building food coops, educating themselves, and working with their communities grows more just food economies at a local level. It is these efforts to build community wealth and to connect meaningfully with people that embody what the solidarity economy means to CoFED.

CoFED is currently in the middle of a grassroots fundraising campaign. If our work inspires you and your vision for the solidarity economy we invite you to join our sustainers network!

Since launching nationally in the Fall of 2010 with support from Michael Pollan, Bill McKibben, and many others, CoFED has worked with over 40 student teams starting or operating cooperative, sustainable food ventures on their campus. You can find CoFED on Facebook and Twitter.

(Image credit: CoFED)