CEMUS Diaries Entry - week 38
Camila Hubel and Kristina Korčeková
Current and former students in the Master’s programme in Sustainable Development
Co-founders of Väktargatan Food Hub
The idea of a food cooperative, or a food hub as some call it nowadays, is nothing knew. And that goes for Uppsala as well — many have come and gone, and a couple are still around. So why did we decide to start one? What would make us different from those prior to us? What has CEMUS got to do with it?
As students of the master’s program in Sustainable Development at the Uppsala University, we arrived in Uppsala full of genuine and yet naive expectations about what we would learn and do to help change the way things worked. One after the other our lecturers highlighted the problems and difficulties with trying to achieve a sustainable world, a world that was equitable for all and considerate of the limits of our planet’s environment. The solutions provided were well intended but overwhelmingly modest, by no means producing results that would help dissolve our deep concerns. Furthermore, these proposed resolutions were broad and hard to grasp, even for those aware of the confusing web of interrelations encompassing so-called sustainable approaches.
The CEMUS library offered a space for us to discuss those issues, vent our frustrations and together get excited about coming up with initiatives to bring about change. This was a good and very important step. However, it was within those same walls that we quickly realized the confines of the academic world we were submerged in and with that of CEMUS, a place that trails the outer edges of that world, but by being a part of it, is by default restrained from overstepping them. With that realization our thoughts started transcending those boundaries. We started thinking of ways to combine our interests and contribute to change outside this bubble we found ourselves in. CEMUS had provided a welcoming and encouraging atmosphere for our incitement to brew, but its culmination demanded going beyond. We were challenged to leave the comfort of the CEMUS library and engage with a world that did not hold the values we had innocently come to think of as presupposed.
Soon after that two things became clear. We shared a passion for good food. And we were aware of the absurdities within the global food system that prevented access to such food produced sustainably. So it was only natural for us to finally combine that with our newly brewing incitement and let it culminate into a new food cooperative — we were going to burst the bubble and take action.
That is how the Väktargatan Food Hub came to life.
From there we started considering what our food cooperative would do differently than those which had preceded us. In short, we wanted to start something that would be accessible to every citizen of Uppsala and would not come to an end after the initial hype passed. We hoped to deviate from the seemingly inevitable path of the many cooperatives that had laid the groundwork for us. Our goal was to connect the members of a food hub to good, responsibly produced food by local small-scale producers by putting in place a food cooperative that was sustainable and would thus last.
In order to ensure that, several things needed to be achieved. First and foremost, the connection between our members and those who provided us with the food had to make financial sense for the producers. Secondly, it had to be fair and rewarding for its administrators. This included acknowledging the time and effort they put into making sure the entire operation ran smoothly for everyone else. Lastly, taking into consideration the expectations we have all become accustomed to, it had to be practical for those purchasing the produce, the consumers. And in our view, a community feeling would be the key to sustaining that, which would mean striving for every neighborhood to have their own food hub and local producers. Eventually, with all those factors in place, we would be putting in practice those same values that uphold a concept of sustainability we had so often discussed in that cozy CEMUS library.
The food hub at Väktargatan is the start to making that plan come true. A plan that originated in the context of CEMUS and hopes to transcend it, contributing to a truly sustainable change — a change that considers everyone’s needs and at the same time benefits our environment.
This is a part of the 25th Anniversary blog series “CEMUS Diaries: Stories from past, present and future”, where we invite present and former staff, students, work group members, associates, and other CEMUS friends to reflect on their time at CEMUS and shed critical light into the future. Read the other CEMUS Diaries entries here.