The Berkeley Student Cooperative is an independent 501c3 nonprofit housing cooperative that provides room and board to approximately 1230 UC Berkeley students. They are known for their affordability, affability, and accessibility. Through our research, we found that food plays a central role to the living experience of a co-op. It acts as a source of togetherness, of teamwork, and of diplomacy. To collect data on the food experience in the BSC, we conducted two surveys in spring 2018: one for co-op members and one for co-op kitchen managers, who are in charge of ordering food. We received 160 member responses, which accounts for ~13% of Berkeley Student Cooperatives residents. Overall, survey respondents reported a very high level of satisfaction with their co-op’s food system, from decision-making to quality of food to the cooking and eating environment. Many members commented that they eat healthier since joining the co-ops, particularly eating more fruit and vegetables. Members indicated that kitchen managers are responsive to requests and feedback, so they feel a great sense of agency over what is ordered and prepared for the house. Of note, many respondents commented on the unsanitary conditions in their kitchens. The co-ops boast a diverse demographic of the student population, particularly of LGBT+ students and students with disabilities. This inclusivity is inherent to the nature of the co-ops, as they were born out of an idea to provide low-cost housing, thereby giving an educational opportunity to people who might not otherwise be able to afford a university education. It is important to note, however, that members were critical of their houses’ attitudes towards diversity and inclusion. Several respondents reported feelings that the co-ops are increasingly being filled with white, wealthier students who could afford to live elsewhere, and instead choose to live in the co-ops because of their strong sense of community and culture. Although it is an enticing environment to live, no matter what, the Berkeley Student Cooperative initial mission must be maintained to serve students who struggle to find affordable housing in the increasingly expensive city of Berkeley.See survey results here. Note all demographic and identifying data related to specific co-ops has been removed. See summary charts of demographic data below.
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