This October, your Neighboring Food Co-ops here in the Northeast are joining over 30,000 co-ops and credit unions across the United States in celebrating Co-op Month. For 2017, the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) has identified “Co-operatives Commit” as the theme for the month. (For resources to help your food co-op join the celebration, scroll down to the end of this story.)
“When you shop at your local food co-op, you’re getting more than good food for you and your family,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA). “You are also joining with other people in your community to build local ownership, provide good jobs, support your local farmers and producers, and build stronger, more vibrant communities.”
For example, the NFCA includes more than 35 food co-ops and start-ups, locally owned by more than 130,000 people. Together, these co-ops provide good jobs for over 2,000 people, generate revenues of more than $315 million, and purchase more than $60 million from local producers each year. In addition, a recent survey found that member co-ops demonstrate their commitment to their communities in a wide variety of ways including programs supporting local producers, food security, sustainability, education for young people, and collaboration with local community organizations.
From food co-ops to farmer co-ops, worker co-ops to credit unions, and housing co-ops to energy co-ops, many different types of co-operatives contribute to our communities and the economy. Co-ops are also more common than you might think: here in the United States, 1 in 3 people are members of at least one co-op or credit union. Nationwide, co-operatives create 2.1 million jobs and generate more than $650 billion in sales and other revenue annually. Because they are member-owned, co-ops empower people from all walks of life to work together to build a better world.
Learning more about co-ops in our food system is easy at your Neighboring Food Co-ops: Just look for the “Go Co-op” signs on our shelves that identify products made by co-operatives. You may be surprised by what you find, including dairy products from Cabot Creamery Co-op and Organic Valley, fresh produce from Deep Root Organic Co-op, fairly traded coffee, tea and chocolate from Equal Exchange, beverages from Katalyst Kombucha and Green River Ambrosia, seeds and bulbs from FEDCO, naturally fermented vegetables from Real Pickles, Northeast Grown frozen fruits and vegetables from your Neighboring Food Co-ops — and many others.
Below are some ideas on how your food co-op can celebrate Co-op Month and promote the difference that food co-ops make every day. By working together with other co-ops and credit unions in your community, we can communicate the impact of the co-operative business model across the food system and economy. However you decide to celebrate, let us know so we can spread the word!
CORE MESSAGING & MATERIALS
- Use the Theme: “Co-operatives Commit.” The theme for NCBA CLUSA’s celebration of Co-op Month this year is an invitation to our food co-ops to promote how they are committed to their communities. How can your co-op use this theme to communicate what sets you apart during Co-op Month and year ’round?
- Tell Our Story. Download and adapt the NFCA’s Co-op Month Story for use in your food co-op’s newsletter, website or blog post, or as a press release promoting the shared impact of our food co-ops in the Northeast.
- Co-op Month Images. Include the NFCA’s Co-op Month logo in your co-op’s advertising, newsletters, flyers and other materials during October.
- Organize a Co-op Month Ad. Invite other co-ops and credit unions in your community to pitch in on a shared ad in your local newspaper. For an example from the Valley Co-operative Business Association, click HERE.
- Social Media. Use the hashtags #CoopMonth and #CoopsCommit in social media posts. Follow them with themes such as #community, #local, #sustainability, #goodjobs, and #fairtrade as you promote how your co-op is committed to your community
IN THE STORE
- Display the NFCA’s “Go Co-op” Rack Cards. Use the NFCA’s “Go Co-op” rack cards to promote Co-op Month to members and shoppers in your food co-op and at special events. NFCA member co-ops receive a bundle of cards in September in preparation for Co-op Month, or you can request a bundle by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Use “Go Co-op” Shelf Tags to Promote Co-op Products. Use the NFCA’s “Go Co-op” Shelf Talkers (photo above) to promote co-op suppliers in your food co-op. Every September NFCA member co-ops receive printed copies to update their shelves. You can also download templates here to print on pre-perforated channel tag paper: Bulk, Grocery, Refrigerated & Wellness items, and Cheese & Dairy items.
- Co-op Month Buttons for Staff, Board Members and Volunteers doing outreach. We will be mailing a set of buttons to member co-ops in time for Co-op Month. Let us know if you want to request a certain number.
- Co-op Month Sales. Set up an end cap or special Co-op Month Specials on products from co-op suppliers. Visit www.nfca.coop/co-opproducts for a list of co-op suppliers.
- Demo Co-op Products. Invite area co-ops to share their products with shoppers at your food co-op. Some co-ops in our region that you may want to reach out to include:
Artisan Beverage Co-op. E-mail email@example.com.
Cabot Creamery Co-op. Contact Clay Whitney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Equal Exchange. Contact Andrew Driscoll at email@example.com.
Organic Valley. Contact Karen Innis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Invite Other Co-ops to Table at Your Food Co-op or Event. Invite local farmer co-ops, worker co-ops, energy co-ops, credit unions, etc., to share information at a busy shopping day at your food co-op or at a speical Co-op Month event. For a map of co-ops in our region, visit www.nfca.coop/co-opeconomy.
- Fundraise for Co-op Development during Co-op Month. Set aside a day, week or the whole month to invite shoppers to round up at the register to raise funds for the Howard Bowers Fund (www.cdf.coop/howard-bowers-day/), the Cooperative Fund of New England (www.coopfund.coop), or NFCA start-up members that are seeking donations for development such as Amherst Community Co-op (MA), Assabet Village Food Co-op (MA), and Morrisville Food Co-op (VT).
ENGAGING MEMBERS & STAFF
- Co-op Month Membership Drive. Co-op Month is a great time to build your food co-op or start-up membership! Use this opportunity to help potential members understand what makes your co-op different and why they should join.
- Co-op Month Talking Points. Your staff and members are your best ambassadors for your food co-op. Provide them with talking points on Co-op Month and how your food co-ops builds community every day. It could be as simple as:
“Did you know that October is National Co-op Month? We’re celebrating the many ways that our co-op is committed to our community, including [share any special events or promotions that your co-op has planned].”
Or more detailed:
“We’re excited to celebrate how our food co-op is committed to our community. Did you know that we’re locally owned by over ____ members, provide good jobs to ____ people, and purchase more that $____ from local producers every year?”
“And we’re not alone! The Neighboring Food Co-op Association includes more than 35 food co-ops and start-ups that are locally owned by more than 130,000 people across the Northeast, providing good jobs to 2,000 people, and purchasing more than $60 million from local producers every year.”
- Share the What is a Co-op? Our Co-op and the Wider Co-operative Movement presentation with your co-op’s staff, board, and/or members. Email us for a version you can customize or invite NFCA staff to do a presentation: email@example.com
- Help Your Members Share Your Co-op:
– “Bring a Friend to Your Co-op Day.” Offer some incentive for every member who brings in a friend who has never shopped in their Co-op or who brings in a friend to join, or…
– “Bring Your Co-op to Work Day.” Create basic materials for how members can share about their Co-op at work (in staff meetings, bulletin board) or in community groups (book club, sports, etc.).
IN THE COMMUNITY
- Co-op Month Proclamation. Download our template “Co-op Month Proclamation” to adapt and submit to your city or town for approval. Contact your local city or town government for information on how to submit a proclamation and remember to plan ahead as local governments may need time to consider your request. (Note that the NFCA is already filing proclamations with state governments in our region.)
- Organize a Co-op Month Event. Work with other co-ops and credit unions in the community to organize a Co-op Month Cookout with information tables, or a Video Showing and discussion forum with a film that includes information on co-ops such as:
– The Visionaries PBS program (2016) celebrates NCBA CLUSA’s 100th anniversary and will be ready for release this fall — your food co-op can sign up to host a screening for Co-op Month!
– “Food for Change” (2014) is an 82-minute documentary film focusing on food co-ops as a force for dynamic social and economic change in American culture.
– “Shift Change” features Spain’s Mondragón co-ops and worker co-ops here in the US.
- Reach Out to Your Local School or Community Organization. Use the New England Farmers Union Curriculum, “Co-operatives: The Business of Teamwork” in education & outreach programs at your co-op, or share it with local schools and community organizations that do educational programs. Curriculum includes content for grades 1 to adult. Download a copy HERE or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on printed copies.
- Start a Co-op Month Book Group on for members at your food co-op. Some recent titles include:
– “Building Co-operative Power,” is the story of worker co-ops in western New England and the potential for cross sector collaboration in growing the Co-operative Economy.
– “Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital,” by John Restakis. Available at your local bookstore or from New Society Press, www.newsociety.com.
– “The Cooperative Solution,” by E.G. Nadeau. This short book (109 pp) makes the case that co-ops across sectors are the solution to many of the major economic, social, and environmental problems in the United States today.
For more titles, visit www.nfca.coop/GO.
Don’t forget to tell us what your co-op is doing to celebrate Co-op Month. Send your ideas and copies of your co-op’s ads, press releases, promotions, and newsletter articles to email@example.com so we can share them with other co-ops in our community.