MacSHARE provides local, sustainable food to Mac community

Malynn Banitt-Moore, Staff Writer

Every Friday afternoon in the Janet Wallace Art Commons, the leadership team and volunteers behind MacSHARE meet to run Macalester’s very own food cooperative. MacSHARE is one of the three student organizations on campus that runs under the larger MacFEAST and involves more than 70 Macalester students. The leadership team purchases food in bulk from Co-op Partners Warehouse to sell directly to the Macalester community.

“It’s a lot cheaper than going to the grocery store,” Tali Berkman ’22, a member of the MacSHARE leadership team, said, “We buy all of our things wholesale and sell them wholesale.”

As a student worker from the department of entrepreneurship and innovation, Tulsi Patel’s ’20 work focuses entirely on MacSHARE. For her, MacSHARE is about providing local, sustainable food and giving students more agency in their grocery decisions.

“We’re essentially getting produce from an outside vendor and bringing it to Mac students in order to provide more accessible and cheaper produce,” Patel said. “[We’re] trying to help them [Macalester students] feel more empowered with their food system.”

After a brief change in vendor, MacSHARE is returning this semester to their partnership with Co-op Partners Warehouse (CPW), a local organic wholesale distributor. This fall, they partnered directly with Shared Ground, a farmers cooperative. Although the leadership team behind MacSHARE loved the opportunity, Rebecca Driker-Ohren ’22 said they made the change back to CPW with the needs of Macalester students in mind.

“[CPW] has a much larger selection… We want to stay local, but also we want people to be supporting more sustainable places,” Driker-Ohren said. “So if we can provide [food] to someone instead of them going to the grocery store, then we’re going to try to do more of that.”

Nilu Mashian ’22, another member of MacSHARE’s leadership team, said MacSHARE decided to return to CPW in response to student demand for both accessibility to certain goods and ensuring those goods are local and sustainable.

“We want to be serving the community in terms of affordable access to these goods, which they are buying anyways,” she said.

MacSHARE’s emphasis in serving the needs and wants of the community is apparent when talking to any of their customers. Sabine Peterka ’21 is a new MacSHARE customer but already appreciates their mission.

“This is the first time I’ve shopped [here], but I think it’s great because it’s difficult to buy groceries in a way that is zero waste,” Peterka said. “This is a great opportunity — and it’s convenient because it’s right on campus.”

Johanna Lorbach, coordinator of the theater and dance department, has also shopped with MacSHARE over the years.

“It feels like we have a complete community here at Mac, and I appreciate all of the resources available right here on campus,” she said. “It is efficient and convenient, and it brings me joy to know that the food is local.”

In addition to partnering with CPW, Patel said MacSHARE partners with groups across Macalester’s campus,  including Bon Appetit, the Sustainability Office and student-run organizations like Outing Club.

“Bon Appetit will buy all the leftover produce at the end of our sale, so that we don’t end up wasting anything,” Patel said. “Through Entrepreneurship, they have given us the budget and the avenue to be able to buy produce from an outside vendor and then come bring it to Macalester and sell it.”

MacSHARE also collaborated with the office of student leadership and engagement through [email protected], with their Kombucha Kickback. The Kombucha Kickback has been one of the most popular [email protected] events and is returning for its third year on April 3rd.

“We’re going to be getting on-campus and some other local musicians to come and perform and getting local kombucha and it’s all free,” Mashian said. “It’s a really fun event, and the campus gets to come together and celebrate the values of MacSHARE and food and kombucha and all the things we love.”

MacSHARE is a hefty operation, a true business and is run entirely by a small handful of students. Right now, the leadership team is focusing on consistency in sales, being able to run the cooperative smoothly and building community relationships, but they dream of a permanent space in the future.

For students interested in MacSHARE, volunteering at sales or attending MacSHARE sales and events are great ways to become involved. The best way to support MacSHARE and its mission is to participate. Bring some reusable bags and jars, and stop by a sale  on a Friday between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. in the Janet Wallace Art Commons.

[email protected]