Campus Alert: Find the latest UMMS campus news and resources at


Local food coop comes to UMMS

A team of volunteers who care about local, healthy food make it happen

By Ellie Castano

UMass Medical School Communications

March 29, 2012
  Products from East Acres Farm in Southbridge are available through the Massachusetts Local Food Coop.

Thanks to the efforts of a group of committed volunteers at UMass Medical School, the Massachusetts Local Food Cooperative is now offering monthly distribution at the Worcester campus. Spearheaded by Rachel Gerstein, PhD, associate professor of microbiology & physiological systems—who has been volunteering for the food coop for several years in her hometown of Holden—the effort to bring the coop to UMMS has relied on students from all three schools and staff members from across campus.

The Massachusetts Local Food Cooperative was launched in 2009, after several years of planning by founder Kelley O’Connor, who was concerned about the sustainability of local farmers and local food and worried about excess oil consumption related to transporting food to market. Since the coop was launched, it has grown to include more than 330 paid members and hundreds of vendors selling thousands of locally grown products, many of which are sustainably or organically grown. The coop currently has seven pick-up sites, including the new one at UMMS, which had its first distribution on March 2, fulfilling orders from 20 members.

On the first Friday of every month, Mass Local Food Coop sets up distribution of items that members have ordered from participating vendors—organic meat and poultry, made-from-scratch granola, fresh eggs, homemade pickles, soaps and candles and much more. A handful of UMMS volunteers head out to the distribution center in Westminster to pick up orders from UMMS in a van lent by Auxiliary Services. When the loaded van arrives back on campus, the goods are unloaded to a waiting pick-up area set up in the old Medical School lobby. Members of the coop who have ordered food for pick-up at UMMS come by between 5 and 6 p.m. to retrieve their order on the way home for the weekend.

Gerstein is quick to point out that bringing the food coop to UMMS was itself a cooperative effort. In addition to the individuals who will be helping with pick-up and distribution by volunteering once or twice throughout the year, several departments—including Community & Government Relations, Human Resources, Facilities, Room Reservations and Auxiliary Services—generously helped make the venture possible.

Gerstein also notes that having access to the products available through the food coop nicely augments what the Farmer’s Market offers during summer months and that both ventures support similar goals. “While there will be some overlap in products, both the food coop and the Farmer’s Market have enough unique items to sustain both ventures.”

If you would like to volunteer to help out with activities related to monthly pick-up at UMMS, send an email to

Visit the Massachusetts Local Food Cooperative website to learn more about membership and to see the list of products available. There is a one-time membership fee of $50, which can be paid in installments if necessary, and there is no minimum monthly order.


  • Leanne Ahronian (GSBS student)
  • Allison Blodget (IRB)
  • Talya Brettler (SOM student)
  • Carrie Burnett (Facilities)
  • Gail Butcher (Surgery)
  • Kim Crowley (Molecular Medicine)
  • Gwen Farley (Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology)
  • Kristin Fleischmann-Rose (GSN student)
  • Megan Janes (SOM student)
  • Sarah Kenward (Microbiology & Physiological Systems)
  • Artem Kutikov (GSBS student)
  • Mary Ellen Lane (GSBS Dean’s Office)
  • Margaret Leroux (wife of MaPS faculty/Mass Local Food coop board member)
  • Alison MacFadden (GSN student)
  • Linda Nelson (Medicine)
  • Cathy Nystrom (Commonwealth Medicine)
  • Jeannette Osterloh (GSBS student)
  • Nicholas Renzette (Postdoctoral fellow)
  • Sarah Sheppard (GSBS student)
  • Dave Sokolowski (GSBS student)
  • Benjamin Vaughan (SOM student)
  • Joe Virbasius (Molecular Medicine)
  • Bronwyn Williams (GSN student)
  • Michael Williams (SOM student)