In 2016, the UNC campus community was lacking more than a student-run coffee shop; campus was lacking a place to get a cup of coffee and a place that could serve as a hub for students, faculty, and staff to meet.

Gwaltney, Jamie, and Acy Jackson. 2016. “UNC Says Hello to The Meantime — a New Coffee Shop in the Campus Y.” The Daily Tar Heel, September 12, 2016.
Screenshot by the author.

There was no cafe between Franklin Street and the dining hall locations, leaving students struggling for something in between.

The Meantime Coffee Co opened in the fall of 2016, a project by students to create a place that was accessible, location-wise and price-wise, and a place that existed to serve the students of UNC.

The Meantime sells coffee, espresso beverages, tea, and pastries made by East Durham Bake Shop. The organization also employs students and gives back to the campus community through a fellowship program. Shortly after they opened, the Meantime announced that their profits would go toward funding two Bridge Year Fellows—a program created to give students the opportunity to go abroad for a year between their sophomore and junior years to engage in a cultural and philanthropic initiative.

Furthermore, the Meantime emphasizes their local roots. The coffee they serve is a product of Carrboro Coffee Roasters, a local coffee producer that focuses on sustainable farming practices, and the partnership between these two entities represents a significant push by students to think about local sources of food rather than national and international sources, as a Starbucks or chain coffee shop would.

The opening of the Meantime Coffee Co, and more importantly, the way that it has grown and thrived since opening, is incredibly important when telling the story of contemporary food issues in Chapel Hill. The presence of a cafe represents the nature of a college campus where everyone is constantly working toward the next thing, but the local practices that this cafe engages in stand as a testament to how young people are interested in sustainable farming practices and creating food sources that everyone can enjoy. The Meantime is a cornerstone of how the youthful generation of Chapel Hill will approach food and foodways in the future; sustainably, intentionally, and for the students.