The flat flavors and lack of autonomy inherent to campus dining is enough to deter some from the dorms and meal halls. But college can also be seen as an introduction to a smaller-scale, down-to-earth style of living. With a little bit of looking, it's easy to find alternatives that will stock your shelves with produce and give you some freedom to eat in the manner you prefer.
While farmers' markets are great resources for a variety of produce, meats, and spices, there are ways to get the same quality of fresh food delivered to your door, or at least available for pick up nearby. Food shares allow you to buy into locally grown produce that are delivered from the farm to your door. The Good Food Collective — a project of Headwater Foods, which is a network supporting local farms — compiles and distributes food shares in attempt of creating, as its website says, a "socially and environmentally just food system." Headwater and Good Food collaborate to get fresh produce from participating farms and make them available for circulation in Rochester.
A "standard share" from Good Food is a box containing six to 10 different vegetables, although shares continuing breads, cheeses, and meats are also available. For a college student looking to make their own meals as well as support a good cause that enriches the larger community, buying food shares could be the answer to on-campus food sources.
Good Food isn't the only service like it either. Numerous area farms participate in Community Supported Agriculture and food shares, and are easy to find with a quick Google search. And for those interested in learning more about the conscious consumption and distribution of food or volunteering with one of those organizations, Rochester is home to a collection of education-minded companies, such as Rochester Roots, a non-profit that emphasizes sustainability education as well as offering a food share program. And Foodlink is a foodbank that distributes produce throughout Monroe and its surrounding counties, primarily to impoverished communities lacking in fresh food resources.
Beyond taking part in food shares, there's tasty meals to be had at local cooperatives around the greater-Rochester-area colleges. The Genesee Valley Co-op in Geneseo has been cooking and serving community dinners frequented by students and community members alike for the last couple years. The GVC, true to the traditional co-op model, is a house co-owned by the students who live there, and the residents all equally share chores, cooking and cleaning duties. The house organizes and puts on workshops, movie screenings, and in general, works to enrich the community with education, dinners, and by providing a safe space.
"Out of house dynamics, we aim to create visual actions and keep the co-op a great environment," says Julia Lewis, a GVC member and the only hold-over between the founding and current iterations of the organization.
The founding members of the GVC are almost entirely graduated after this past school year, but a new generation almost doubles the GVC's size, growing into a two-house operation starting this coming fall semester. Slight changes to the GVC are to be expected.
"The co-op model is varied," Lewis says. "Not one-size-fits-all." Gearing up for the change of hands, Lewis is positive, secure in the way of life she's chosen. "The spirit of co-op is adapting to new people," she says.
The GVC will continue with its mission of community enrichment and putting on dinners and workshops throughout the school year. Not merely settling for what's been done before, Lewis says, "We want to cast a broader net."
There are several co-ops in the Rochester area, such as The Little Flower Community. For people trying to narrow down their off-campus options when it comes time to move out of the dorms, co-ops offer a way to live a bit more consciously and experience the advantages of cooperative living. For those who are uninterested in that kind of constant sharing and mutual responsibility, but still want a taste of the co-op life (or even just the tasty dinners), co-ops generally offer the public the ability to board a dinner for a small fee.
Conscious consumption doesn't stop at food shares and co-ops either. Anyone can pick up fresh and local groceries from the Rochester Public Market (280 North Union Street), which is open every Saturday from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursday, from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you're a student living in the city of Rochester over the summer or fall, check out some of the local urban gardens. They're yet another resource from which to take inexpensive, locally-sourced vegetables. Allowing that you'll have to buy groceries at least some of the time, check-out Abundance Food Market (62 Marshall Street), which is a grocery store co-operatively owned by community members instead of a big corporation.