Food is at the center of co-op life. We buy food together, we cook together, & we eat together. BCL divides our house food budgets into three categories.Each house collectively decides how much money per month to allocate to each of three food budgets
Once a month, all of the houses collectively buy bulk dry goods through UNFI (United Natural Foods, Inc.). Items in this category include dried beans, lentils, chickpeas, rice, canned goods, nondairy milk, laundry detergent, dish soap, spices, dried fruit, nuts, etc. Someone at each house takes inventory of their bulk goods and places their house's bulk order. Additionally, we often purchase CSA's (Consumer Supported Agriculture) from local farms, and the fresh local produce we get from them falls under this category as well. These programs last for a few months of the year. BCL pays a few hundred dollars upfront to a farm, then the farm supplies a bushel of whatever produce is ready to us each week.
Once or twice a week (sometimes less frequently during the summer months or at other times when house members are away), each house or a group of houses buys an order of produce & other fresh goods through Piazza. Foods in this category include fresh veggies, fruits, tofu, yogurt, spices, and even bread. Each house has a Piazza coordinator and a Piazza receiver to organize and store the delivered produce.
This part of the food budget goes toward foods that are perishable or for whatever reason are not feasible to get through bulk or Piazza. Foods in this category may include milk, butter, herbs, berries, and cereals. A house representative makes trips to local grocery stores to procure items.
Each house has its own system for requesting food. Generally, you can make any food magically appear at your home by writing it on a whiteboard or by talking to your food buyers.
Allergies and Dietary Restrictions
Because co-op kitchens often contain a wide variety of ingredients, they can be dangerous for those with severe allergies. If you are severely allergic to something, your house will not purchase it. If you are more mildly allergic to something, your housemates can simply label any leftovers that are free of that ingredient (ie. labelling "GF" for gluten free).
Just in case, you should probably keep an EpiPen or your anti-allergen medication of choice somewhere easily accessible and make sure your housemates are well aware of your allergies.
Regarding non-allergen dietary restrictions, like vegan and vegetarian, each house prepares meals so that everyone in the house may eat them. For example, if someone makes a dish of scrambled eggs, they will also prepare some tofu scramble. The houses do not collectively buy meat, so 99% of house meals are vegetarian.
Each house has several common fridges with at least one personal fridge for individuals to store their own food. All food that is purchased or prepared collectively goes in the house fridges, while any personal items go in a personal fridge (cheese, restaurant leftovers, ice cream, etc.).
Beware the "no name fair game" rule of thumb... if you don't write your name on something, a co-op vulture may eat it up. Also, all fridges are purged of food items regularly. So, it's a good idea to put a date on all house prepared foods and personal items.