Comfy Chairs, Coffee and Conversation at the Co-op

By Rachel Graham, Bloc Reporter 

The bottom-level of Stamp Student Union contains a store dissimilar from the mundane.

The Maryland Food Collective acts as a deli, coffee shop and grocery store. Amongst College Park collegians, the store is known as the Co-op.

The store’s mission strives to provide healthy, locally produced food that tastes great and is inexpensive. The store’s slogan reads “Food for people, not for profit,” highlighting affordable prices for its visitors.

Since the ’70s, the Co-op has worked to provide quality food under a worker-owned establishment.

The workers do not refer to themselves as “employees”; they call themselves “worker-owners,” Chris Litchfield, a worker-owner said.

Workers share the same responsibilities and equal ownership of the business without the presence of superior management positions.

The store holds open meetings at 6:30 p.m. every Monday, offering $7.50 for attendees, according to the store’s Facebook page. To add, individuals interested in contributing can volunteer and earn $7 an hour in food credit.

Litchfield said he loves not having a “boss.”

Despite the long hours, Litchfield said it feels good knowing “everything I did that day has given back to the community.”

Aside from having a full breakfast and lunch menu, the Co-op offers coffee, bagels, baked goods and ready-made meals. Its healthy and vegetarian-friendly options make it unique to campus.

Michelle Regius, a senior Spanish and French double major, often comes to the Co-op for its cool ambiance, comfy chairs and cheap coffee. Regius said she loves how coffee starts at $1.25, almost half the price of Starbucks.

People crowd the Co-op everyday during lunch hours waiting for a sandwich or salad.

Popular items are the daily vegan entrees, which rotate between specials such as, “Taco Tuesday,” lentil burgers, sweet potato fries, barbecue and Indian cuisine.

Gabie Phillips, a Co-op volunteer, said she loves being able to share and promote the Co-opʼs message while interacting with U-Md. students.

“I may be back there washing dishes for two hours but I am a part of something that is bigger than myself,” Phillips said.

Nava Behnam Shabahang, a worker-owner, is an avid volunteer as well.

“It gives me so much motivation and I appreciate the democratic process. I enjoy putting in as much as I can because I can see very tangible results,” Shabahang said.

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