November 12, 2015

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Anabel’s May Not Be the Answer

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To the Editor:

I am a first-generation, low-income, Agricultural Sciences student, and I am concerned about the  outcome of Anabel’s Grocery. I am not against the idea of a student-run grocery store, nor am I against solving the pervasive food insecurity problem. Solving food insecurity was why I chose to go to Cornell, but Anabel’s is not the solution. We need a full, impartial investigation into all strategies. A group of students and I, who are deeply concerned about food insecurity, believe that we cannot cut off discourse because a vote has been passed and “leave it to the administration.”

We find it hard to accept that Anabel’s economic projections are the only accurate ones. Their consistent response to negative-economic projections is that other projections are too conservative. Yet, The Sun, the Cornell Progressives and the Cornell Review have all expressed concerns over Anabel’s feasibility. Anabel’s has failed to acknowledge the bias problem inherent in relying solely on internally produced analysis. Its projections brush aside GreenStar’s impact on food-insecure students claiming that Green Star’s prices are too high, without ever taking into consideration GreenStar’s Fresh, Local, Organic Within Everyone’s Reach (FLOWER) program. Even if GreenStar is not feasible for food insecure people, it will attract those who aren’t food insecure which will cut into Anabel’s profit margin. Matt Stefanko ’16 proves our point when he acknowledges the possibility of Anabel’s returning to the Student Assembly for more funds.

In addition to economic concerns, we believe that the concerns of religious students have not been properly heard. At the S.A. meeting last week, the sponsors of Anabel’s reiterated that they had gotten their ideas approved by the governing board of Anabel Taylor, Cornell United Religious Work. However, the directors are Christian, and as well intentioned as Anabel’s team may be on religious sensitivities, we find it negligent to suggest that by talking to the board of Anabel Taylor, the concerns of all religious students could be understood.  To our knowledge, Anabel’s team has not reached out to the Hindu Student Council once, despite a Hindu Student Council member voicing concerns at last week’s S.A. meeting.

Additionally, the specific items to be sold are still to be determined. We commend Anabel’s for being open to input on their inventory, but students who do eat meat could be dissuaded from purchasing at Anabel’s, impacting its economic predictions. However, meat being sold has the potential to make students of some faiths uncomfortable. Though the proposed location of Anabel’s is convenient for many, we believe the significance of the building as a place of worship has not been fully considered, and that the concerns of students of non-Christian faiths have been dismissed with vague answers.

On November 11, 2015, we called the GreenStar ombudsperson. Their role, the GreenStar website explains, “is to be an impartial and confidential ‘sounding board’ for concerns.” We asked specific questions as to how their membership and FLOWER programs work. FLOWER identifies people with financial need through certain government benefits, then gives a membership discount of 15 percent. While currently, it could be difficult for students to be eligible for FLOWER, the notion that GreenStar’s policies are static is flawed. The original programs recognized as demonstrating financial need did not include the Free School Lunch Program, yet it was added this fall. Referendums can be submitted by ANYONE in order to create changes to GreenStar policies. Though as GreenStar stands, it can’t fix the problem of Cornell student food insecurity, we ought to recognize the possibility of a student partnership. Moreover, we believe that if we are committed to fighting food insecurity, the more avenues we have for students to purchase affordable, fresh food, the better.

We ask the Cornell Community Coordination Committee to vote against allocating funds to Anabel’s. We aren’t against Anabel’s — in fact we think this would benefit Anabel’s by allowing a more sustainable business model to be developed and proposed. This would also allow time for the S.A. to consider other plans that may do a better job at giving food insecure individuals access to healthy and affordable food. A vote against Anabel’s is not a vote for food insecurity, but a vote for allowing the greatest exploration into the most viable solution possible.

Kavin Lam ’18