The Real Food Cooperative (RFC) quickly gained popularity as a student-run catering business last year, but has not been seen around campus this year.
“Continuing as a club has been very difficult because the campus is unsure how to deal with a club making and selling food on campus,” food science senior and food service manager Jared Hobbs said.
Creating a club requires visiting Associated Students, Inc.’s (ASI) Club Services website after recruiting members and a faculty adviser to fill out required paperwork, a charter and bylaws form.
The club charter must be renewed each year and new officers must be kept up-to-date with a brief training. But maintaining and progressing the RFC has been a real challenge this year.
In the 2014-15 academic year, the RFC applied to the Agricultural Business (AGB) department to become an Instructionally Related Activity (IRA). Any group recognized as an IRA is no longer a club and gains administrative support as well as funding through the school.
“The primary difference between a club and an IRA is an IRA is much more academically in-line with the university,” Cal Poly administrative analyst Jessica Carson said. “There is a larger possibility of funding as well.”
The RFC’s achievements were evident last year, as they sold more than 3,000 meals. The team was granted an IRA sponsorship and anticipated $5,000 to support its activities.
But RFC unexpectedly lost its IRA standing, along with its funding, when the AGB department pulled its support after a leadership change. The club members, who were not notified of the change in command, resorted to raising approximately $1,500 on their own accord to keep the club afloat.
After complying with all university requests, RFC members felt frustrated when they were not shown the same effort in return.
“In my experience, the administration takes issue with student clubs selling food because it creates a liability for them,” environmental management and protection senior and former RFC President Jesse Gibson said. “From the outset, the administration has seemed intent on stalling, delaying or shutting us down, rather than helping us grow and succeed.”
The start of this year brought new hope for RFC as the STRIDE Center for Solutions Through Research in Diet & Exercise expressed interest in being the administrative sponsor for the club. However, in January, when the proposal was supposed to be written, STRIDE emailed RFC saying they did not possess the “administrative capabilities” to support the club.
RFC met with administrators from ASI Club Services, Contracts & Procurement, Campus Dining and Environmental Health and Safety on Monday, March 7 to discuss the IRA-related future of the club. Negotiations were made on both sides. The meeting resulted in success, as RFC was granted permission to become an IRA for Spring 2016.
“It’s the first time we’ve left a meeting feeling as though the administration is our ally,” Gibson said.