In August 1975, Matt Mayer, a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, submitted a proposal to the Student Government Association (SGA) for the formation of the Maryland Food Collective, which is today also known as the "Maryland Food Co-operative" or the "Co-op." Agitation for the formation of a campus-based food cooperative began in 1972 as the university began to consider mandatory board for all students. Diamondback Editor-in-Chief Chad Neighbor wrote in an editorial on March 2, 1972, that students wanted "viable alternatives to the starch, paper plates, lines, heat, and tired menus the food service offers." In the spring of 1974, a member of the SGA Executive Committee approached John Goecker, the Director of the Department of Food Services, for advice on setting up a food co-op. By the fall, the Department of Food Services decided that inflation made a grocery store untenable, so the SGA planned a record store co-op instead. At a mid-September meeting with Goecker, students living in the residence halls expressed their displeasure with the food quality, sanitation standards, and customer service they experienced while patronizing food service. The following week, news broke that the food facilities within the Stamp Student Union were in danger of being closed down for not meeting Prince George's County sanitation standards. In October 1974, the Rainbow Food Co-op, located in Riverdale, Maryland, considered relocating to College Park with funding help from the SGA, though the plan ultimately failed. In August 1975, Matt Mayer submitted an official proposal for a food co-op was to the SGA. It is believed that the precursor to this official proposal was a "Guerrilla sandwich line" that formed in 1975, prior to the offical sanctioning of the Co-op by the SGA, as a protest to the monopoly of the University Dining Services. It supposedly consisted of people making sandwiches at home and selling them out of baskets in the Student Union.
Today, the Co-op continues to operate on the University of Maryland camp, independent of the university and the Department of Dining Services. It is a member of NASCO, the National Association of Student Collectives. Every weekday, a vegan hot lunch is prepared with available fresh vegetables. Cooking, whether of hot lunch or of meals for packaging in glass-display refrigerators, and baking are also important parts of the Co-op's day-to-day activity. There is a deli-style sandwich line with over fifty available spreads, vegetables, cheeses, meats, and condiments. In addition, the Co-op sells grocery items and produce, both of which are mostly organic. During the 2004-2005 academic year, the Co-op experienced sales of $3,000-$4,500 a day during the regular semester and $2,000-$3,000 a day during the summer and winter sessions.
The Co-op is staffed by both paid workers and volunteersThe volunteer program allows anyone to work in exchange for credit that can be used within the store. As a worker's collective, all decisions are made by the workers, through equal voting. Meetings are held weekly and they are open to anyone. The chair of the meeting and the minutes taker rotates every meeting between all paid workers. Anyone attending the meeting can introduce a motion, which is then voted on by paid workers. Menus are decided upon by each shift. They can prepare whatever they want for hot specials or for the case. Sandwich line recipes have followed an oral tradition, with workers adding their own flair. Since the nature of a collective is to give an equal voice to all who work there, workers often use the Co-op as a platform for politics and creative expression. This creates what many workers, customers, and volunteers see as a unique work atmosphere.