AMDA (Allegheny Mustn’t Dine Alone) dining co-op began as a junior seminar project in fall 2012. Students in Professor Neff’s environmental science seminar were assigned to create a purpose for two spaces in Carr Hall- the kitchen and workshop. As a whole, the junior seminar developed a dream statement for the two spaces:
Our Dream is a safe space in which a community of equals can work together to share skills and resources that will foster more sustainable and connected lifestyles.
The junior seminar split into two planning committee groups, one for each space. General student concerns about the lack of space on campus to prepare meals and dietary needs not being met through the college’s dining services brought upon the idea of creating a dining co-op, “an autonomous association of persons who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit” (International Co-operative Alliance). With this direction in mind, the students came up with a mission statement:
Our mission is to use the Carr kitchen as a space where people come together for a communal cooking experience. Our co-op will support community building, local food usage, diverse eating habits, knowledge sharing, and cost-effective cooking skills. Through cooperative planning and implementation, we strive to unite students, staff, and faculty through good food and full stomachs.
In further exploration, students traveled to Oberlin College in Ohio to find out how successful dining co-ops at a similar institution run. After learning more about the logistics of dining co-operatives, the students put together an open meeting for Allegheny students, faculty, and staff to learn more about the idea. The meeting also served as a test-run for the co-op as students in the seminar cooked a delicious meal of chili, bread, and apple crisp for attendees, which only cost $1.30 per person!
Today, AMDA is thriving. Weekly meals have commenced for two Fridays this semester, and will resume next semester after winter break. The co-op is community-run through this website, which is maintained by the planning committee. A shared document allows members to organize meals by signing up for different roles, which include menu planning, fee collection, cooking responsibilities, and cleaning up afterwards. AMDA is well-equipped for self-sufficiency and success in both the next semester and years to follow!