A food taste-off and live reggae show will highlight the Isla Vista Food Cooperative’s annual member meeting to be held this Saturday.

Co-op General Manager David Montano said anyone interested in becoming a member is welcome to attend the meeting at 6550 Seville Road, where he will give a brief introduction to the store and discuss matters affecting current members. The I.V. Food Cooperative is a local source of groceries that aims to provide more health-conscious food items than those offered by the major supermarket chains.

Members to the co-op receive a share in the non-profit store as well as a 5 percent discount on store products, or a 15 percent discount if they volunteer four hours of their time each month at the co-op, Montano said. He said membership costs $150, is fully refundable and can be paid in increments as low as $5 per month.

A food taste-off, including a squash taste-off, and live reggae show will follow the meeting, Montano said. He said he will also unveil the co-op’s new banner and announce a T-shirt design contest. Free food will be provided at the reggae show.

The co-op is unique in that it allows its members to take an active role in how the store is run, board member Diane Conn said.

“I like the co-op because I can become an owner,” Conn said. “What other store can you walk into and become an owner?”

Those who plan to attend the meeting are encouraged to bring a homemade bread, dessert or main course for the food taste-off, Montano said. He said prizes will be awarded to the winner in each of the three categories for both the best vegan and general entries, and the winner of the squash taste-off will receive a $50 gift certificate to the co-op.

Montano said local activists and students established the co-op in the early ’70s to take control of food prices and to provide foods local stores were unwilling to carry.

“The objective was to provide a healthier alternative to all the other products – Trix cereal, for example,” Montano said. “And every member has a vote.”

Conn said the co-op offers a wide selection of products, many of which are difficult or impossible to find in traditional supermarket chains.

“The food here is incredible,” Conn said. “There’s a large number of fast-food items. There are free-trade bananas, free-trade coffee – that means the farmers get the benefit, not just the shippers.”

Montano said the co-op is also more environmentally conscious than other grocery stores.

“We recycle almost everything,” Montano said. “We try to minimize packaging, and to encourage customers to buy in bulk.”

Melissa Cohen, a co-op employee, said the store offers products to I.V. that other local stores do not, and that she likes its lower prices.

“In a college town where there are 25 liquor stores, hidden on this little street is this wonderful little organic store,” Cohen. “It’s been around for 30 years and the same people have been coming here – day in and day out for 30 years – to do their shopping.”