Kayla Whidden

I joined the Wasatch Co-op because I want the ability to buy delicious, healthy, local food all year round.

I spent my college years volunteering at The Utah Community Food Co-op, learning about the industrial food system by watching as many documentaries and reading as many books as I could on the subject, and doing my best to incorporate this new knowledge into my daily life. After a classmate of ours had done a summer of research for The Real Food Challenge, we started “Westminster for Real Food” where we took a photo petition showing why students wanted their dining dollars spent on real food.

I completed my College career by travelling to Spain and Italy with a student group studying Slow Food and Sustainability. We learned about not only the superior health, environmental, and community economic benefits of eating food that is locally and sustainably produced, but the one element you can never read about or watch in a documentary is the pure pleasure of preparing and eating real food with friends and family.

Unfortunately in our culture, food is seen as merely an input to keep us living busy, productive lives, the cheaper that input, the better. Well what is the real cost of cheap food? That is probably a really difficult answer to quantify, but think about this: how would the cost of healthcare (i.e. disease care) change if we, as a nation, were eating real food that our bodies recognized? How would the expectations put on as at work, and correspondingly, our stress levels, change if we became a nation of home-cooked meals and hour breaks? How would our relationships change if we cooked and ate together rather than microwaving our own individually wrapped packages and fuelling up in front of the computer, video games, or the TV?

I know that to me, food is something much bigger than fuel. It keeps us healthy and can heal us when we’re not. The way it is produced can negatively affect our environment and the health of the people who produce it and eat it. And it’s usually the thing that causes people to gather, get to know each other, build, and maintain meaningful relationships.

So, getting to the point, the Co-op isn’t just a grocery store where you can buy healthy, local, sustainable food you can trust and feel proud to feed your family. It is a social network, the old kind—the kind that someone my age has probably never experienced. It is a group of inspiring people who believe that we can solve a lot of problems by rebooting the way Americans view food. It is a place where you know the cashiers and shelf stockers and you can ask them, “What’s new and exciting this week?” or share an amazing recipe you made the week before. And most importantly, it is a place where you can meet friends, build community, and inspire other people in your life to see that food is so much more than fuel.

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