Cowell coffee shop to transform into a basic needs cafe

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Carolyn Golz, College Administrative Officer for Cowell and Stevenson Colleges; Bill Prime, Dining Director; Tim Galarneau, Food Systems Education & Research Program Specialist, CASFS

Hunger on college campuses is a growing concern across the United States and was recently highlighted in an article in the Washington Post, The Hidden crisis on college campuses: 36 percent of students don’t have enough to eat. Like other University of California campuses, we are not immune. In 2016, 44 percent of UC undergraduates and 26 percent of UC graduate students reported having experienced food insecurity. At present, leadership from all ten UC campuses are working together to address food and housing insecurity at the local and system-wide level.

We are pleased to share that Cowell College and Dining Services are moving forward in partnership with the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) to transform the Cowell Coffee Shop into a multi-service basic needs cafe with extended weekend hours, that will maintain a study space for students coupled with free coffee and tea and a food pantry.

The basic premise is this:

  • The lower part of the cafe would remain a student study space with free coffee and tea, plus a variety of programming options focused on nutrition, financial wellness, CalFresh workshops, cooking skills workshops, etc.
  • The upper part of the cafe—the kitchen—would serve as a food pantry and demonstration kitchen for student programming.
  • The transactional nature of the cafe would change—no longer will students be able to purchase food and beverage in the cafe, but instead the space will offer basic needs services for free to any UCSC student.

The decision to transform the Cowell Coffee Shop comes after extensive engagement with constituent groups which included student forums, faculty and staff consultation, and engagement with Cowell alumni. Throughout the consultation process, feedback about the proposal was very positive.

Planning is ongoing and will continue through the summer. The transformed Cowell Coffee Shop will open in Fall 2018 to begin serving students as soon as classes resume.