Thank You Kara LaPoint
Kara wrote the best article about the cafe yet, she really grasped the idea and vision of the project. I am so grateful for her work it is really exciting! Here is the full article
Students hope to establish Green Café on campus
Story by Kara LaPoint
Photo by Tonx, licensed under Creative Commons
Amy Harris is passionate about food. So passionate that Harris plans to establish the first Green Café on campus.
Harris, a sophomore majoring in Environmental Studies, is calling for an affordable eating experience that provides students a variety of healthy and diverse food choices, including vegetarian, vegan, and ethnic food and drinks. The foods would emphasize local, organic and/or fair-trade product. The café would also be student-run and non-profit.
With Green Café Co-Chair Justin Zabriskie and other students, Harris wants to establish a place where students can show their talent, and learn new talent. Zabriskie, a junior majoring in international affairs, says he wants the café to be “a cultural niche on campus for students.”
An Easy Decision
Harris first envisioned the Green Café while working on a community project assignment in her interdisciplinary environmental studies class. She said it was easy to decide on the Green Café, as a project she could invest in that would also benefit the community.
Long after the culmination of the class, Harris and Zabriskie are still working diligently with other students to bring the idea to life.
According to Harris, the café is designed to be a place of community, where students can hang out and enjoy the atmosphere. “Right now, the main priority is the food,” says Harris. Eventually she envisions having live music, student artwork, cooking classes, yoga and more.
“We want to give back,” says Zabriskie. “If people don’t connect to us through our food, our sustainable practices or our message, then we want to find another way for them to be comfortable and involved.”
Harris and Zabriskie came together on the project through a meeting Harris coordinated in response to an Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno Senate bill proposing to fill an opening on the third floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union with a bar and grill.
According to Zabriskie, several students opposed the idea, and he said they felt a healthier restaurant should fill the space. He was driven to the project because he says the students who care about healthy food and reliable food sources weren’t being represented.
“A lot of us are tired of the fast food conglomerates dominating campus,” he says. “Many students eat there because they have no other option. We want to promote healthy lifestyles on campus, and that is certainly not what’s happening now.”
Supporting and Selling Sustainability
Harris says they are working to gain more student support through greater promotion of the business and the ideas it stands for – sustainability, local product use, healthy food and environmental awareness.
“It’s really hard to build a sustainable business,” said Harris. Affordability is the main issue, she says, where the challenge lies in proving that the business will generate enough revenue to sustain itself.
For that reason, Harris and Zabriskie have sought help from a group of marketing students, who are writing up a business plan for the Green Café throughout the semester. Senior Cameron Barnes is one of four students working on the plan.
“The business plan is built to give structure to the idea,” says Barnes. “Ours is focused on the financial component to show the school that not only can the Café bring revenue, but also show that the students who are involved are serious [about their cause].”
Barnes said the plan enables the group to “see the possibilities and limitations more clearly, “providing a “strong platform for the café to build off of.”
The group is working to gather information to forecast demand through local demographic research. Likewise, they are looking to similar businesses and their respective financials to forecast expenses and generate a basic idea of when the business will become profitable and determine its growth forecast.
Barnes explains that as a non-profit business, the revenue generated stays within the school. According to Zabriskie, the group would like to find its own channel for resurfacing the money to students.
“Providing non-profit service to the students is ideal,” said Zabriskie. “We don’t want to have the typical stigma attached to our business, but instead generate our own positive image that goes hand-in-hand with our principles.”
According to Harris, another major challenge is finding a permanent space she says. “It would be ideal to have the Café permanently on campus, but that has been hard to figure out.”
Until the foundation is built and a space is found, pushing the student interest is crucial, said Harris. “The more people we can get behind us, and the more interest there is, the harder it is to ignore,” she says.
Harris says that while they wait for that permanent location to be established, the group simply wants to find a way to provide good food and share their idea. “Any space will do for now,” she says. “Even if it is just an empty classroom to hold feeds out of every so often.”
Both Harris and Zabriskie say that it is tough to set out a specific goal for when they want the Green Café to be open, because there are so many variables. For now, they are each trying to do as much as possible with the time they have while they are in school.
The Green Café group (right now about 25 members) holds regular meetings and the group is planning to set up a table at the upcoming Sustainability Festival on campus next semester, as well as setting up a booth to provide food for an Earth Day event. They have already done two soup feeds on campus.
Harris said that the events drew great responses from the students, demonstrating the demand for healthier food and sustainable business on campus. Such responses are critical for the group, as the process of establishing the Green Café proves to be no easy feat.
“My hope is that the Café will become as much of a passion to the others working there as it is for me so that it won’t die out when I leave,” says Harris. “That is the whole point of pushing sustainability. To pass it on.”
If students are interested in getting involved with the Green Café, the group would love help with promotion, setting up events, making food, and simply spreading their cause, said Zabriskie. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.