Community, sustainability and good food lift Shaydanay Urbani’s spirits. And so she created the UCLA Student Food Co-op, a new club at UCLA that aims to build a student cooperative grocery and café on campus, and here are her thoughts about her passion.

How did you become so interested in food?

When my parents were graduate students, they had a hard time buying good and healthy food to eat due to their budgets. When I was born, buying good food became even more important, but their budgets did not improve. Luckily, my mom was and is very food conscious and cared about what she fed me. My grandfather would cook gourmet meals and fed them to many others. Each day, I realize how important it is to have access to good food despite demographics. As I live and study at UCLA, the hardship of quality sustenance became apparent. When you are little, buying good food for you is not something that is constantly in your mind. As a college student, I am faced with limited good food choices that are healthy and producer friendly and environmentally conscious. It is sad to see that the living circumstances of humans determine what they eat. Different households will eat different qualities of food based on what they can afford.

What was the first organization you created?

I began a club called Slow Food at UCLA, which connects the student experience with food, community and sustainability. We had potlucks, and it was so much fun!

What factors led you to organize Student Food Co-op?

I am involved in B Green Consulting, which is very environmentally oriented and strives to spread knowledge of “being green” to everyone. I have always been interested in the environment and nature. At UCLA, I became even more aware of how what I eat affects my environment. I researched the environmental and [biological] consequences of specific food consumption. UC Berkeley started an organization called CoFED, which helps students start food groups at their own campuses. In June, my friend Lehren Mackay and I attended the CoFED retreat at the Orella Institute where we learned about food history, justice, co-op management, basic accounting, cooking and outreach programs. I actually became elected as a board member for UCLA’s CoFED this year. We provide resources to business plans and legal consulting.

What is your plan for the Student Food Co-op?

My basic vision for Student Food Co-op is to provide sustainable fresh food, educate about food ethics and business, host potlucks and go on retreats. I want the club to connect with our communities, other clubs and each other. I want to hold projects with famers and explore ideas with UCSB and UCR and UC Davis food groups. Membership is open to everyone, and meetings are at 7 p.m. each Wednesday. It is electrifying to see how excited people are about the club, especially since October is Food Month. It would be amazing to start a pilot program that teaches skills in co-op management and sustainability and create a food-buying club where groups can coordinate their resources and buy food in bulk so that we can all eat natural foods at much cheaper prices. I want to encourage everyone to become excited to make our bodies as healthy as possible.

We have a newsletter with over 200 subscribers and a Facebook group with over 246 likes. We just had our second meeting, and over 20 people attended despite the rain. I am excited to see where this club will go and all it will achieve.

Why do you think this club is getting so much support and attention?

Today’s youth and power of youth inspire me so much. Now more than ever before, youth are speaking up and making changes that they want to see. Collective action really gets jobs done. Since the economy is suffering, it is comforting to find something we can take control of and change. Co-ops have gained popularity because they are models in which those who work for the organization also own the organization. The culture of food has always brought people together. So these are reasons why the food movement is making an impact.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I am a Middle Eastern Studies major and an Environmental Studies Major. I care so much about my background and my community. I would love to be an entrepreneur or create and non-profit: any model that engages my community. I am also passionate about the performing arts, so if I could have a career that is the intersection of community and performing arts, I’d be so happy. At the moment, I am grateful to be part of such amazing movement bring so many people together and eating such good food!