The scene was aglow at Earth House last week, where LiveWolves!, a new vegetarian Co-op, hosted a meal. A student entered with an enormous pot filled with tawny beads of rye, all accompanied minutes later by a second pot of fragrant ratatouille. An apple dessert, meanwhile, neared completion in the kitchen. As students trickled in, they were handed some silverware and an endearingly motley assortment of plates. They quickly wove their way from pot to pot before gathering together to eat and laugh.
LiveWolves!, which currently has 35 members, provides vegan meals made from local and mostly organic materials. Each week a rotating team of three prepares four meals in the Earth House kitchen.
The LiveWolves! Co-op grew out of the Veg-Out Co-op that has for some years offered monthly homemade vegan dinners to students. The LiveWolves! Co-op allows for less strain on each of its participants while placing greater emphasis on environmental sustainability. Earth House still offers a Veg-Out on the first Thursday of each month, with a $4 entrance fee.
The Co-Op has shares in a couple of community-supported agriculture programs from which LiveWolves! receives potatoes, apples, pears, onions and garlic even in the darkness of the Connecticut winter.
The goal of the LiveWolves! Co-op is to demonstrate the viability and desirability of eating locally grown foods. Judging by the smiles of the diners last week, they seem to have met with success.
“It’s been really impressive,” said Gabrielle Ault-Riche ’08, “As a group of students we’ve been able to provide for ourselves using almost entirely locally available ingredients, which means we don’t have access to certain spices and to sugar, though we’ve still been able to make delicious food.”
The Co-Op came into existence after its founders visited Oberlin College, which boasts a well-established co-op system. When planning the Co-Op last spring, the founders’ greatest challenge was formulating a Co-Op model amenable to Aramark and the Administration. Both ultimately proved receptive and helpful; the Co-Op does not use Aramark’s points and the University has agreed to cover the company’s losses.
The students involved with the Co-Op are motivated both by their appreciation of vegan options as well as their concerns about corporate agriculture.
“It’s great to be able to get nice, local vegetables that aren’t genetically modified,” said Will Blomquist ’08, adding that the average $4 cost of a LiveWolves! meal is cheaper than some of the other dining options available on campus.
The push for local produce is not only an effort to amortize the resources expended in food transportation but to support local agriculture.
“A lot of apples one can buy in the fall in Connecticut come from Japan even though fall is the perfect season to grow apples here,” said Master Chef Jordan Schmidt ’08.
The Co-Op has faced a number of little trials in its day-to-day running, including questions about portion size, the taking of seconds, clean up and the likelihood of students to commit to four meals a week. This is not to mention, of course, a lack of counters and a stove described by Amy Alexander ’07 as “temperamental.”
For all that, though, the enthusiasm shared by LiveWolves! members about the Co-Op is marked.
“It’s rad,” said Owen O’Connor ’07.