University precincts are known for their profusion of cheap eats. And the Australian National University’s The Food Co-op Café delivers on affordable and ethical food.
Have you had that experience of buying a packet of plastic-wrapped rice, lugging it home, pouring it into your favourite Tuppperware container, and wondering at the waste as you toss the package in the bin? Well, I have. And on a recent shopping trip to The Food Co-op Shop I enjoyed taking my Tupperware with me and feeling virtuous about avoiding package waste. The product is not cheap (although you are eligible for a reduced rate if you volunteer), but it is quality: all the bulk supplies are organic and with information on where the items were produced.
It is these quality organic healthy grains and other ingredients that The Food Co-op Café draws upon in its new affordable Breakfast Bowl option. The initiative follows the success of the affordable lunchtime meals. There is only one breakfast bowl choice, and it changes daily. My bowl was a gluten-free coconut banana chia pudding. I am not normally a chia fan (I find it a bit gluggy), but I finished every last bit of my porridge – and felt the better for it afterwards. Even if I did drown it with lumps of brown sugar to satisfy my sweet cravings (rather than white refined sugar, there are recycled glass jars of brown sugar on each table).
I accompanied my chia pudding with a generous cup of chai latte made with almond milk. No-one will look twice at you if you ask for non dairy options: almond milk, soy, whatever – they have it all covered. The chai is made with real chai tea leaves rather than a sugary blend (I did augment mine with brown sugar, though). I opted for it latte style with frothed (almond) milk, but you can also order it in a teapot. It was not as hot as I might have hoped on a cold morning, but still warming and comforting.
The Food Co-op feels like a trendy op-shop, decked out in comforting mismatched furniture, a stocked bookcase and a catching environmentally conscious and Indigenously aware mural on the wall. It appeals to the socially conscious diner, or café frequenter, with suited messages such as a poster of Australian uranium mining sites hung on the door of the toilet (the bathroom is also equipped with a baby change table). I had earlier dismissed this as a student only space: not so. While the Co-op offers discounts to members, students and concession holders, any member of the public is welcome.
What: The Food Co-op Shop and Café
Where: 3 Kingsley St, Canberra 2601 (Lena Karmel Unilodge building)
Opening hours: 8am to 11am Monday to Friday (for breakfast)
How much: $5 dining in ($6 take-away unless you bring your own container) or $8 for members/students/concession holders with tea or coffee
Phone: (02) 6230 7505