The Isla Vista Tenants Union and the Isla Vista Food Co-Op have partnered together in order to begin hosting the Gaucho Food Program, which will allow UCSB students to enjoy different organic food products for free each Wednesday.

The weekly event was just launched on Wednesday and will invite IVTU to offer various food options — including an array of healthy, organic and sustainable food items — for free at the Co-Op, every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. All funding for the food will come out of student fees distributed to the IVTU budget, as the Food Co-Op recently received financial assistance from the campus group.

According to IVTU Chair Aksai Bapa, when the Food Co-Op’s lease expired in 2012, it began facing financial struggles and turned to the local community for support. Through a project called “We Own It,” the Food Co-Op was able to gather up funds from various local sources, including IVTU, Bapa said.

“The Isla Vista Tenants Union contributed to the program and because we’re a student group, we had to get a return on our investment,” Bapa said. “The Gaucho Food Program is a way of getting the money back.”

Bapa said the funding, which is now being cycled back into student wallets through the Gaucho Food program, is similar to a loan given to the Food Co-Op and will be paid back over a five-year period.

As the first products being offered through the program, the Food Co-Op decided to hand out seven crates of kale and carrots, Bapa said.

However, the program will also donate any leftover food products to the A.S. Food Bank, as a way of ensuring that it continues to serve students in need, according to Andrey Bogdanov, vice chair of IVTU. Bogdanov said the program is an effective means of both feeding UCSB students and educating them on how to best live a healthy lifestyle.

“I am terribly excited about the program because we have a way to help hungry students here at UCSB,” Bogdanov said. “We have also been using the program as an education base to educate students about the Isla Vista Tenants Union and just healthy living practices in general.”

Pita Lee, another board member of the IVTU, shared Bogdanov’s enthusiasm and said the program will aid struggling students.

“I think the mission behind the program is really good,” Lee said. “We’re giving out organic food that helps out students. A lot of students are struggling right now so it really helps that we have this program in place.”


A version of this story appeared on page 4 of Thursday, March 6, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.