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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Eating at college brings to mind dining halls, endless desserts and, of course, the ‘freshman 15’.

But now, more college students are forming, and joining, food co-operatives on campus for access to fresh, healthy food at affordable prices.

Lauren Troop was determined to eat healthy when she got to campus, but found finding fresh, affordable, nutritious food was a challenge.

“The options that were available weren’t very extensive for people who don’t eat meat, or are gluten free or have some kind of dietary restriction,” said Troop.

So when she heard that some students were starting a dining co-op with support from the school, she was on board.

“As I got involved I started to become really passionate about the co-operative model,” said Troop.

Owned by the employees and volunteers, the Rad Dish Cafe serves up fresh, locally sourced, organic, vegetarian and vegan options for students and members make all decisions about its operation.

“We’re seeing more and more co-ops pop up on campuses. One of the reasons is that students want to have more control over their food options and what they’re putting into their bodies,” said Temple University Director of Sustainability Kathleen Grady.

Grady advises students involved with the cafe. She points out that co-ops on campus take different forms, like bakeries, dining clubs or co-ops where students pool resources to get bulk rates on fresh produce.

Students say being involved in a co-op helps them make healthy choices.

“I’ve learned a lot about preparing healthy meals, vegetarian meals, seasonally available meals,” said Taylor Stack

The benefits go beyond nutrition, Grady notes that co-ops are great teaching tools.

“They’re getting hands on experience that they would never get in a classroom, and they’re being challenged to think about things that would never come up in books,” said Grady.

“After becoming a part of the co-op I realized that I love running my own business and I switched my major to entrepreneurship,” said Stack.

Grady said one of the challenges of co-ops on campus is continuity. Since students graduate, it’s important to have a transition plan and a new crop of students to take over running the co-op.

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