|Your Neighboring Food Co-ops:
Locally Owned by More Than
100,000 People Like You!
Measuring Food Co-op Impact: Beyond Good Food
NFCA Food Co-op Impact Study
Every year, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) surveys its Member Co-ops as part of our effort to communicate the impact of food co-ops in communities across our region (https://nfca.coop/about). In 2016, our survey included more than 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives, locally owned by 120,000 people, and generating shared revenues of $300 million. Member Co-ops also had a dramatic impact on the economy, employing over 2,000 people and purchasing over $60 million from local suppliers. We asked our summer intern from UMASS Amherst, Nicholas Monica, to share his impressions on what our survey had to say about these efforts:
In a recent survey conducted by the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), food co-ops had a lot to say about their efforts in ecological sustainability, food security, member participation, and inclusion. The amount of work being done in these areas was very inspiring. In fact, there were so many great examples that it is difficult to pick a few to highlight.
As for sustainability initiatives, the number of programs at our region’s food co-ops was particularly impressive. Of the co-ops that responded to the survey, 8 have installed solar power systems, 12 have switched to high efficiency/LED lighting, 6 heat their stores with reclaimed energy from their refrigeration systems, and 21 have composting programs or are diverting food waste. One example that stood out is Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, NH. In 2016, Monadnock implemented commercial composting so that they can handle post-consumer waste such as one-use to-go items so they can divert more waste away from landfills. They also piloted a community supported solar array, meaning that the local community developed, funded, and owns the photovoltaic system on the co-op roof, giving the co-op the option to purchase the panels in ten years. To support and sustain these efforts, Monadnock has also implemented sustainability trainings for all staff.
Many of the co-ops surveyed also had multiple food security programs, reflecting the NFCA’s emphasis on Healthy Food Access over the past few years. Of the co-ops surveyed, 13 co-ops had a Food for All program in place, with more stores looking to implement initiatives in the coming year. Brattleboro Food Co-op in Vermont reported over 265 people participating in their program, which offers educational programming and discounts to members on limited incomes. River Valley Co-op in Northampton, MA, donated 21 tons of food to local food banks in 2016. Many NFCA member food co-ops offer subsidized membership and payment plans for low income people and their families, empowering people to not just purchase healthy food at the store, but to become member-owners of a local business.
Food co-ops have also been focusing on member participation, with the majority of co-ops hosting member appreciation days and other events during the year. Portland Food Co-op in Maine co-organized an event called “Feed the 5,000” to raise awareness of food waste, where member volunteers gleaned fields and prepared food to feed 5,000 people. As part of its website redesign, Franklin Community Co-op created a member-only forum, while River Valley Co-op reported a 25% increase in member participation in Board elections as a result of their transition to online voting. [Editor’s note: NFCA member co-ops receive a discount on Simply Voting‘s online voting services.]
As a student intern with the NFCA, I noted that engaging young people is an area where food co-ops can do more. Of the groups that have specific programs in place, most focused on internships for high school and college students, or programming for elementary school children. Franklin Community Co-op had 6 total internships with local college students, hosted school group tours, and attended high school health and wellness fairs, job fairs, and community college job fairs. Co-op Food Stores in New Hampshire and Vermont hosted kids’ camps, high school classes, and job shadow days as well as holding programs in local schools focused on Fair Trade and world foods.
Many co-ops acknowledged that diversity and inclusion is an area where they are trying to do more. GreenStar Co-op Markets works with community leaders and organizations to recruit candidates for the Board of Directors and to review their hiring practices, while Portland Food Co-op is developing store signage and information in multiple languages in order to be more welcoming. Lexington Co-operative Market in New York State is working with the International Institute of Buffalo to provide employment for refugees.
Overall, the NFCA survey showed that food co-ops around the Northeast are doing a lot of good. When you shop at your local co-op, your consumer dollars are also supporting community ownership, sustainability, food security, and economic inclusion. There were so many exciting examples from this survey that it was difficult to decide which ones to include in my report. And by working together and sharing ideas, food co-ops in our region can continue to benefit their communities and contribute to their shared success for years to come.
Nicholas Monica is a junior at UMASS Amherst, majoring in Operations and Information Management and Sustainable Food & Farming, with a minor in Economics. His internship is part of his completion of the Certificate in Applied Research in Co-operative Enterprise with the UMASS Amherst Department of Economics. He hopes to apply knowledge learned in this program to his work on campus at the student-run worker co-op, Sweets & More.
Solving Problems, Changing the World with the Neighboring Food Co-op Association
As a fellow cooperative business, Organic Valley has always been dedicated to supporting the activities of other co-ops. They wanted to feature Neighboring Food Co-op Association’s Go Co-op! initiative and support our efforts to promote cooperative businesses in the Power of We section of their website called Rootstock.coop:
“There are probably as many reasons to shop at your neighborhood food co-op as there are shoppers: One person likes the sweet, fresh, organic fruit; another seeks food to fit strict allergies; a third wants to keep her food budget local by purchasing produce grown on area farms.
But how many shoppers choose the co-op because it’s a co-op?
Truth be told, most of us fill our grocery carts without stopping to consider the benefits of a cooperative business model-or even fully understand what a co-op is in the first place.
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) hopes to fill this knowledge gap. A “co-op of co-ops” based in Shelburne Falls, MA, the NFCA is made up of more than 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives across New England. The organization was formed in 2010 to help its member co-ops join forces in the common cause of supporting regional food systems and lifting local economies; educating consumers on the benefits of the cooperative business model is part of its core mission.
Members of NFCA, like food co-ops across the country, have been pioneers in support of issues like natural/organic food production, fair trade and food justice, and the local foods movement. NFCA’s “Go Co-op!” program highlights such strengths. The program includes a labeling effort to identify cooperatively produced items at member stores, investor information for those interested in funding co-ops, and educational efforts like local co-op study groups.
Read the whole article on Rootstock’s website: https://www.rootstock.coop/power-of-we/neighboring-food-coop-association/
Stronger Brand, Stronger Start-up
Lessons from Dorchester Food Co-op’s Re-Brand Process
When Food Co-op Initiative (FCI) noticed that the strongest developing food co-ops they were working with also tended to be some of the best-branded ones, they decided to explore this further. Jacqueline Hannah, Assistant Director of FCI, had been working to support Dorchester Food Co-op, a start-up in the largest neighborhood in Boston, MA, and learning about their successes and challenges on Neighboring Food Co-op Association’s monthly start-up calls, and decided to test this out by offering a grant and working with the co-op on establishing their brand. She wrote about this branding experiment in a recent article in Cooperative Grocer Magazine.
“In the summer of 2016, we approached the Dorchester Food Co-op (DFC) to be the subject of our grant…Together, we assembled a team for the rebranding project: Darnell Adams, project manager, as project lead on the DFC team; DFC rebrand team, made up of outreach committee members and board members; Melanie Shellito of Artezen LLC, a professional in branding and design (Melanie@artezen.com) and a founding member and board member at an Illinois startup, Green Top Grocery; Joy Rust, food co-op marketing specialist and a member of CDS Consulting Co-op.”
…”By strategically rebranding and planning a new brand launch, a co-op has the opportunity to excite their community and build strong brand recognition,’ says Rust. ‘Capitalizing on a re-brand with a formal launch plan will ultimately increase participation and member growth for a startup food co-op.'”
…”DFC launched their new brand at the beginning of March with teaser social media and a sneak peek party event, then the update of their online presence. At the time of this writing, the results from the rebrand are still coming in and being measured. ‘Would I call it a success? Absolutely,’ enthuses Adams. We got five new owners at the launch party and sold out every t-shirt we’d ordered, including the one on my back because an owner wanted it so much and it was the last one left! I believe that we’re going to continue to see new energy in DFC and in our ownership growth going forward.'”
Read the full article: http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/establishing-stronger-brand
Co-ops Featured at NOFA Summer Conference
NFCA Sponsors Track of Workshops on Co-ops
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is proud to sponsor a special track of workshops and presentations on “Co-operatives in the Food System” at the 43rd Annual NOFA Summer Conference, August 11-13, 2017 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. The conference is a great place to meet people from across the Northeast and beyond for a three-day celebration of the grassroots organic movement, with amazing farmers, presenters, seminars, workshops, food and fun. Immerse yourself with like-minded practitioners and curious learners eager to share their inspiration and ideas for organic food, farming, health, activism – and co-ops!
Co-op Track events, which will take place on Friday, August 11 and Saturday, August 12, 2017, address a variety of the ways co-operative enterprises are contributing to a more healthy, just and sustainable food system, including how food co-ops are strengthening food security and empowering people to build sustainable food systems, practical steps for small producers and co-ops to comply with new food safety rules, launching a new co-op or converting an existing business, and a screening of the PBS Visionaries’ documentary “In the Spirit of Co-operation,” featuring local co-ops such as Real Pickles:
Friday, August 11th:
- 4:00-5:30 pm: Who Gets to Eat? Co-ops Addressing Food Justice with Bonnie Hudspeth (Neighboring Food Co-op Association), Dorian Gregory (Cooperative Fund of New England), Jon Megas-Russel (Brattleboro Food Co-op) & Maria Infante (Project Bread)
Saturday, August 12th:
- 8:00-9:30 pm: Food Safety Rules for Small Producers & Co-ops with Roger Noonan (NEFU) (New England Farmers Union) & Vicki Smith: Food Safety Specialist, New England Farmers Union (NEFU).
- 10:00-11:30 pm: Co-ops & Economic Democracy: Why Go Co-op? with Adam Trott (Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives) & Crowell (Neighboring Food Co-op Association)
- 1:00-2:30 pm: “In the Spirit of Co-operation”: Video & Discussion with Producer with Bill Mosher (Executive Producer, Visionaries Public Television Series) & Erbin Crowell (Neighboring Food Co-op Association)
For workshop descriptions, visit: http://nofasummerconference.org/?s=co-op
See the Keynote Speakers: http://nofasummerconference.org/2017-keynote-speakers/
Thanks to CoBank for their support of our Neighboring Food Co-ops
Summer Time = Smoothie Time
NFCA’s Local Frozen Blueberries Make a Great Summer Treat
It’s summer time: why not “Go Co-op” with your smoothie?
When you purchase the NFCA’s Northeast Grown Frozen Fruits & Vegetables, you are not only making a good decision for yourself and your family, you are helping to grow the local economy. Our frozen Blueberries, Organic Broccoli, Organic Edamame, Organic Green Beans, and non-GMO Sweet Corn are all produced, picked, processed and packed (say that five times fast) right here in the Northeast. And they are available only at your local Neighboring Food Co-op.
This recipe is designed to be quick and easy, designed around one 10 oz package of Northeast Grown Frozen Blueberries and ready to eat in less than 10 minutes!
Blueberry Antioxidant Co-op Bomb Smoothies
Makes about 4 / 8oz Servings
Prep Time: 5 mins
- 10 oz. Bag of Northeast Grown Frozen Blueberries from NFCA
- 2 Ripe Bananas from Equal Exchange – Peeled, of course.
- 1 Cup Plain or Vanilla Yogurt from Organic Valley co-ops
- 1 Cup of Florida’s Natural Orange Juice
- 1 Cup Milk/Soy Milk from Organic Valley
- Like it a little sweeter? Add a little local Maple Syrup
To learn more about the NFCA’s Frozen Products, visit https://nfca.coop/FarmToFreezer
Thanks to Dorsey & Whitney LLP for their support of our Neighboring Food Co-ops.
“Cave to Co-op” Local Artisan Cheese
July’s Local Artisan Cheese: “Mad River Blue”
Have you noticed the “Cave to Co-op” signs in the cheese section of your local food co-op?
The project is a partnership between Provisions International and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) to support artisanal cheese producers in our region and make their products more easily available to co-op shoppers. Each month, a delicious local cheese is featured at a great price.
July’s special cheese is “Mad River Blue” from von Trapp Farmstead, Waitsfield, VT. Mad River Blue is a natural rinded blue cheese, made with the farm’s certified organic unpasteurized cows milk. This blue is very approachable with a mild blue bite but interestingly complex flavor profile and unique creamy texture.
Try these Mad River Blue recipes at your summer gatherings:
For more information on the program, visit: www.nfca.coop/CaveToCo-op
New England Farmers Union
Farmers Union Makes Rural Voices Heard on Healthcare
WASHINGTON – As Senate Republicans rush to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA) before the Fourth of July recess, National Farmers Union (NFU) continues to urge Congress to consider the needs of rural Americans in health care reform. Today, NFU President Roger Johnson served as a witness at a hearing entitled “America Speaks Out: How the Republican Health Care Bill Would Devastate Rural America.”
NFU, which has long advocated for the right to affordable and quality health care, has been a vocal opponent of the AHCA since its introduction earlier this year in the U.S. House of Representatives. Negotiations have occurred entirely behind closed doors, without any public hearings. Johnson expressed dismay about the lack of transparency that has marked the entire process. “The Senate Republicans are now drafting their version in secret with no outside input. Farmers and ranchers have a lot of serious concerns when it comes to health care, and they deserve to have their voices heard.”
In both verbal and written testimony, Johnson emphasized his concerns with the legislation, which, according to last month’s Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score, would cost 23 million people their health coverage. “We cannot support any legislation that would reduce the number of Americans with health coverage,” said Johnson.
As passed by the House, the AHCA would worsen access to healthcare for many Americans and would disproportionately disadvantage family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. For instance, its proposed cap on Medicaid would have devastating impacts on rural Americans who enroll in Medicaid at higher rates and whose hospitals rely more on the program than their urban counterparts. Seventy-nine rural hospitals have closed since 2010, the vast majority of which were located in states that opted out of Medicaid expansion. “With another 673 hospitals at risk of closure,” Johnson added, “we need to increase – not decrease – support for rural hospitals.”
Furthermore, the bill allows states to opt out of the law’s essential health benefits clause and community rating provision. “Given the average age of farmers and the dangers of a career in agriculture, it’s likely that a significant percentage of farmers would be forced into high-risk pools,” Johnson added. “This would leave many farmers to contend with increased premiums, higher deductibles and longer waiting periods for coverage.”
The bill would also dramatically ease restrictions on what companies can charge older farmers, potentially increasing premiums for seniors by thousands of dollars. At the same time, the AHCA’s system of tax credits would allocate subsidies on a person’s age, adversely affecting younger farmers who may not receive additional income or health benefits from off-farm jobs. “It is critical that our health care policy protects those individuals currently working in the agricultural sector, especially those with pre-existing conditions,” said Johnson. “Of equal importance is ensuring that health care costs do not serve as a barrier for young and beginning farmers.”
“The needs of farmers, ranchers and rural Americans must be seriously considered as these conversations occur,” Johnson concluded. “While there is certainly opportunity for improvement in current policy, the American Health Care Act will only hurt family farmers and rural communities across the country. NFU requests that you oppose this legislation.”
For more information, please visit www.newenglandfarmersunion.org.
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The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is an affiliate member of the New England Farmers Union (NEFU), representing our commitment to collaboration among consumers and our region’s family farmers and fishermen to influence food system policy and build a more vibrant, resilient and co-operative food system in New England. For more information on our partnership & how you can become a member, visit: www.newenglandfarmersunion.org/co-operation.
For More Co-op & Food System Related Events, Visit: https://nfca.coop/calendar
Aug 11-13, 2017
Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Summer Conference
Hampshire College, MA
Co-op Track at the NOFA Summer Conference: https://nfca.coop/nofasummer2017
Aug 17-19, 2017
Federation of Southern Co-operatives 50th Annual Meeting, Birmingham & Epes, AL
Sept 28, 2017
People, Planet, Prosperity: Co-ops & Sustainable Development
Ontario Provincial Co-op Conference, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Sept 30 – Oct 1, 2017
Co-op Festival, National Mall, Washington, DC
OCTOBER IS CO-OP MONTH!
Tour of the Co-operative Movement of Mondragón, Spain
Nov 4, 2017
Co-op Cafe, Keene, NH (Co-Hosted by the NFCA)
Nov 10-12, 2017
North American Students of Co-operation (NASCO) Annual Institute
Ann Arbor, MI
March 18, 2018
Neighboring Food Co-op Association 7th Annual Meeting
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is a co-operative federation of 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives across New England, working together toward a shared vision of a thriving co-operative economy, rooted in a healthy, just, and sustainable food system and a vibrant community of co-operative enterprise.