Anabel's has been open for a few weeks now and while it doesn't happen often, sometimes a person comes to the check-out with their groceries, but we're not able to sell to them since they're not a Cornell student. Ideally, we would be able to sell to a wider community – everyone needs access to affordable and nutritious food. But for value-based and funding reasons, Anabel's can only sell to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
Anabel's was created by Cornell students for the purpose of helping Cornell students. After the campus-wide 2015 PULSE survey confirmed and provided irrefutable evidence that food insecurity at Cornell exists, the concept of an on-campus grocery store became less of an idea, and more of a reality. A large bulk of Anabel's start-up funding comes from the Student Helping Students Fund. While students haven't contributed to it since 2009, the purpose of the fund is to help current students. Usually, the Students Helping Students Fund assists students in emergency circumstances – paying for a plane ticket home when a family member passes away, or providing housing or new living necessities if a student's house burns down.
Previously, the fund's expenses had been small compared to its size of $1.5 million, so the founders of Anabel's saw that the fund had a huge potential to help a lot of Cornell students in a meaningful and lasting way. Despite the controversy surrounding the fund's purpose, in 2015, Anabel's received $360,000 for start-up costs – money whose benefits would last long after the money itself ran out. However, one of the stipulations attached to this funding was that Anabel's would only sell to students in order to align with its purpose.
Since the Students Helping Students Fund had been paid into by undergraduate students, originally Anabel's was only going to be available for undergraduates. But in 2016, the graduate and professional student assembly (GPSA) decided to allocate an annual $20,000 from their budget, because a survey they conducted found that there was a significant amount of graduate and professional students who were food insecure on some level. Their decision to help fund Anabel's is what allows all students – undergraduate, graduate, and professional - to shop at Anabel's. The GPSA funding will continue for four years, after which the topic will be revisited.
This financial support from Cornell is one of the main reasons that Anabel's is able to offer low prices. Besides funding for start-up costs, the space in Anabel Taylor Hall is rent free for five years, and utility free for one year. This assistance, combined with the fact that Anabel's is student-run on a volunteer basis (i.e. no labor costs), gives us an advantage over local food retailers who do have to pay for utilities, rent, and labor. When Anabel's was in the process of approval, one of the administration's concerns was about this potential uneven competition between Anabel's and community businesses. Sometimes called 'town-gown' relations, the administration wanted to ensure that Anabel's didn't cause any conflicts with grocery businesses in the Ithaca community.
In addition to start-up funds from the SA and GPSA, the two student bodies also allocated certain funds for an Anabel's Subsidy Fund. Through this generosity, Anabel's Grocery is able to offer an additional subsidy to its shoppers who are recognized as experiencing food insecurity through a USDA-based metric. The subsidy is available to qualifying students who join Anabel's Shopper's Club, our inclusive club that aims to create a sense of community and culture around food and student wellness.
Through the Anabel's Shopper's Club registration, the Anabel's team is able to better understand our whole customer base, how we can expand it to reach other students, as well as gather information that will help determine the students who can receive healthy foods at a more affordable price.
In an ideal world, these logistical conditions would not be obstacles for Anabel's in addressing an issue as important and overlooked as food insecurity. However, because of our founding philosophy, funding source, and wanting to maintain good community relationships, Anabel's is only able to sell to student.