After a lengthy debate at Thursday’s meeting, the Student Assembly voted in favor of developing and funding the proposed student run grocery store in Anabel Taylor Hall.
The resolution — which passed by a vote of 14 in favor, nine against, and two abstentions — calls for the S.A. Financial Aid Review Committee to allocate $320,000 from the Students Helping Students Grant Endowment to fund the store.
The allocation will cover renovation costs, a subsidy fund to help students purchase groceries and the start-up costs of the grocery.
Thursday’s vote marks the latest step in what has become a year-long attempt to open the store. Emma Johnston ’16, S.A. executive vice president, and Matthew Stefanko ’16, S.A. vice president for finance — the co-founders of the store and co-sponsors of the resolution — hope that the store, known as Anabel’s Grocery, will address the issue of food insecurity on campus.
However, the sponsors still face additional hurdles before they can begin renovations. They still need approval from the Campus Coordinating Committee and will present to them next Friday, according to Johnston.
“While this vote is really important, these aren’t the people who will decide whether or not we’ll have the store on campus,” Johnston said.
Johnston said the store’s proponents have been working with members of the committee to prepare for the upcoming meeting, ensuring that they are able to address the concerns they have heard in the past in case they rise again at the meeting.
“[The new administration is] trying to make it as transparent as possible, what we need in order to get this passed by the Committee,” Johnston said. “We think we are doing our best to address all the concerns that they have brought up.”
Student Assembly President Juliana Batista expressed her satisfaction with the passage of the resolution and praised the work that the sponsors put into the proposal.
“I think that the grocery store has been a long time coming and I think that through all the iterations we’ve seen a lot of growth in the business model and the way that it has been presented,” Batista said. “I’m particularly impressed, and I think that this is a really tangible and concrete initiative that is coming out of the Student Assembly. I hope to see more things like this.”
Students filled the room for the debate, and many expressed concerns about the Proposal. Some were against taking money out of the Students Helping Students fund — which is currently used to assist students with various emergency needs — to fund a business proposal, and other brought up the possible intrusion into the religious space in Anabel Taylor Hall.
Responding to criticism during the debate, Stefanko said that the renovation costs for the building “max out at $140,000” and added that the student grocery has the potential to impact a larger number of students than the fund currently helps.
“You are talking about a solution that has the potential to benefit thousands of students on this campus, and sacrificing potentially two to three internship stipends that are going to students within a particular college,” Stefanko said.
Among the students who spoke, Rob Hendricks ’17, co-director of the grocery store, spoke personally about his own experiences with food insecurity and the ways he and others food insecure students would benefit from the initiative.
“I’ve been particularly working on the store for over sixth months now and over the past two months I have become food insecure myself,” Hendricks said. “When I look at this grocery store, and I see the work that’s been put in and the hours that I’ve put in myself, I look at a store that’s a solution to my food insecurity.”