The Rebirth of The Hungry Caterpillar Food Coop

Popular student-run food cooperative, the Hungry Caterpillar, is finally enjoying its rebirth after spending lockdown in hibernation. We caught up with Jane Williamson, a volunteer and organiser with the co-op, to find out more about the relaunch and what to expect from the new and improved cooperative.

“The Hungry Caterpillar came from a desire to have more affordable, cheap and low-waste groceries on campus,” Jane explained. “Bulk shops can be colossally expensive and inaccessible to students and those on lower incomes – more expensive than shopping at a supermarket. Our aim is to bring together students to do something positive around sustainable yet fairly priced food.”

To achieve their goals, the cooperative buys from local wholesaler, Essential Trading Cooperative, and resells at the same price – a ‘positive uprising’ against the c

ulture of big supermarkets. Members bring along their own containers and buy produce by weight, minimising food waste and plastic packaging.

Run by student

society BUST (Bristol University Sustainability Team), the Hungry Caterpillar is open 1-3pm every Wednesday in the Multifaith Chaplaincy. Each week, customers can also enjoy a cheap and sustainable lunch before the stall, made with ingredients from the co-op and vegetables donated by a local grocer’s shop.

Janes explains that this is a second life for the Hungry Caterpillar, and the cooperative wants to offer even more than before.

“It’s conceptually a reincarnation – bringing the Hungry Caterpillar back from the ashes. But now we’re reimagining it; the food stall is central, but we are also running movie nights and clothes swaps”.

The itinerary of the co-operative over the next few weeks includes a seed planting session and a Hungry Caterpillar patch-ironing workshop. Jane tells us that they are also looking into setting up a supper club, and an affordable veg box scheme so that they can also offer fresh produce. It’s clear that joining the cooperative is about more than picking up groceries.

“It’s also a way to make new friends and take simple impactful action,” Jane added. “The Hungry Caterpillar is not just those who run the stall. The cooperative is open to suggestions of new products to stock and enjoys collaborating with other students and groups for events. It operates like a society, with volunteers signing up via a rota to run the stall every week. Everyone is working together to get sustainable, low-waste, and low-cost food onto campus- it feels great to be a part of it!”.

Both staff and students are welcome to join and use The Hungry Caterpillar cooperative, which is open from 1-3pm every Wednesday in the Multifaith Chaplaincy, Woodland Road. You cecome a member for just £3 a year through the BUST sign-up page on the SU website here.

Zero-Waste Pop-Up, 12:30-15:00, Thursday 27 April, Bristol SU Living Room, Senate House 

To mark World Food Waste Day, The Hungry Caterpillar is running a pop-up shop in the SU living room, to help you consume more considerately, reduce your reliance on single-use plastic and save some money! Make sure to bring your Tupperware along and stock up on essential household ingredients and snacks. You can purchase annual membership to the co-operative for just £3 on the day, or right now using this link.