Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In Our Own Words: Member Testimonial (Anna M.)

Driving through downtown Denver after having been away for quite some time, it occurred to me how lucky I am to live in a city that offers so many local businesses and an amazing farmer's market community.  Don't get me wrong--I love Colorado dearly and treasure the time I spent there.  But between driving through Aurora amidst the chain restaurants and overhearing fellow jet-setters complain about their lack of food choices in RVA, it broke my heart.  The public doesn't know where to look for the good stuff.

It's always been amazing to me how such simple things--eating local, healthy foods and practicing yoga--have become so expensive to get in on.  No one should have to pay $100 for a special yoga mat.  A single mother shouldn't have to rely on fast food to give her a cheap, cost-effective way to feed her children.  It boils down to giving people access and education.  That's why I love the two organizations I represent:  Project Yoga Richmond and the Richmond Food Cooperative.  Without waxing poetic on my social science theories, let's put it this way:  Both were founded on the principle that stronger individuals translate to healthier communities.  By making the healthy unattainable to the masses, who are we really helping?

I believe that everyone has something to contribute, whether it's talent or time.  The coolest thing is, I've been able to see this philosophy in action as we build our cooperative community from the ground up.  Brainstorming over delicious brews and a homemade dinner at Michele's , I realized just how many amazing people I've been so fortunate to surround myself with.  Who knew I had so many masseuse/acupuncturist/musician/badass artist friends? What if, and humor me for a moment, we could get all of these people in one grassroots organization to share their brilliance and collaborate over tasty, affordable fare and fun events? What if we could all cooperate for a better community? What if I could be a co-owner of it all? Count me in.  

And that's why I joined the Co-op.

-Anna Meshejian, Co-op Member/Owner

Monday, March 17, 2014

Know Your Board: Julietta Singh

From Food Co-op Initiative January 2014; # Member/Owners now nearly 400! 

I remember keenly the first time I thought critically about the vital link between food and community. I was backpacking through India and decided to visit the  New Delhi headquarters of Vandana Shiva, the Indian environmental activist whose work has been invaluable to an international understanding of corporate globalization and its profound human and environmental consequences. In the tiny environmental bookstore in the front room of Shiva’s headquarters, I picked off the shelf a book titled Seeds of Suicide. Therein I learned about the devastating effects that Western corporate power has on local communities in rural Punjab, the upper northwestern region of India where my father was born. Like so many other regions of the world, farmers there have been forced into turning away from traditional land management practices to adopt the western form of monocultural production. This form of production cultivates only one crop for mass global output rather than a diversity of crops to sustain local communities. The result is that when these “miracle” seeds, manufactured in laboratories to be theoretically immune to any forces of nature that could destroy crops, are found to be fallible, farmers literally lose everything. I thought then about how this process, which Shiva argues has led directly to countless farmer suicides, implicated my own family history in a highly political, corporate world of food production that I had never before considered. 

Today, situated in Richmond, Virginia with a toddler whose appetite often appears insatiable, I find myself thinking constantly about the food we eat: how it will effect us in the moment and in the future; how what and how we eat together—as collectivities—has consequences for those we know, but also and critically for others we don’t and may never know, but to whom we nevertheless have a responsibility. I realize that those farmers in India who are linked to me by virtue of history and heritage are no less linked to me than are the other farmers globally who similarly suffer from the intensely destructive systems we often inadvertently support in our everyday lives. So too are they no less “my people” than those who in our own city are not properly nourished or cared for by our current social system. Community is not to my mind a closed circuit: To be a community, in the deepest sense of the word, means to act in ways that are perpetually open to new lines of alliance and affiliation, and to take responsibility for our immediate choices with an aim toward the infinite possibilities that such bonds can produce. 

If each of us encourages one friend or family member to join the co-op, we’ll very soon be able meet face to face in our own co-operative storefront. With this spirit of community as a governing force, I hope we can all work together to foster the widest and most representative reach of community members. As we gather, let’s push one another to always engage with the benefits and consequences of our everyday practices.

-Julietta Singh, Co-op Board Member

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

In Our Own Words: Member Testimonial (Emily F.)

I don't know about you, but I think there's something really powerful about neighbors who come together to make their community better. For me, this plays out in a variety of ways. Most recently with food. For the last two years I've had a community garden plot in my neighborhood. It was started by a neighbor, funded by neighbors and allowed to exist on the private property of a neighbor. I've met really great people and have truly enjoyed being a part of that particular community project. And of course, I love the produce!

When I heard about the effort to start the Richmond Food Co-op, I got excited. What a cool idea! Neighbors were getting together to start a business that would provide local and wholesome foods while creating a community. A community. People who've been a part of a coop before probably understand this concept instantly. It took me a while to learn it.

My first food co-op visit occurred in Olympia, Washington over a decade ago. It was a "grocery store"...but not like a grocery store I'd ever been to. It was essentially the exact opposite of every SUPERmarket experience I've ever had. I remember walking up and down the aisles amazed at what was on the shelves. Really healthy things along with some stuff I'd never heard of, but I was sure it was good for me. And the idea that the members owned it! Wow! That blew my mind. The staff, the volunteers and the members (aka shoppers) all had an interest in making the co-op succeed and benefit the community in a way that just seemed fundamentally different to me.

My second experience with a food co-op on the campus of SUNY Binghamton was just as enlightening. Campuses are themselves interesting and dynamic communities but the food co-op was my preferred location. I could spend all day there meeting with students and doing work. The students who ran and supported the coop were really proud of their efforts (rightfully so). I was absolutely energized by being in their company.

So like I said, when I heard about folks looking to start a Richmond Food Co-op, I got excited. Healthy food, member owned, dynamic people! Sign me up! (As an aside, I'm apparently a slow decision maker. It took me a little while to write that check. But I knew I was going to do it.) And I did it. And I'm proud of it. I'm looking forward to meeting new neighbors and seeing where the power of collective community action takes us. See you at the Co-op!

-Emily Francis, Co-op Member/Owner

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Know Your Board: David King

The vision for the Richmond Food Co-op resonates with me because at its core it boils down to two things:  a community and a grocery store. 

By a community, I mean a group of like-minded people with similar values – in this case, healthy and exciting living.  Too much of what is important to me in society has been “taken over” by large commercial interests – food, clothing, music, entertainment.  Fortunately, in recent years there is a trend back to local:  in Richmond we can again find really good local live music, theatre, and restaurants.  Co-op member/owners care about such things.  We are a community.

Sources of locally produced and healthy foods are expanding, too, which for those of us who like to cook is a promising trend.  It’s not easy, though:  “What day of the week is it – okay, Wednesday, I’ll drop by Lakeside Farmer’s Market.”  The evolution from supermarkets (with very little in the way of local foods) to specialty (and expensive) organic grocery stores to farmers’ markets to CSA’s should now be….a grocery store that sources IT ALL, every day, all day.  This is a an important component of the vision.

If you are reading this, here’s the most important thing you can do this week:  find one person and invite him/her to join the Richmond Food Co-op.  Thank you!

-David King, Board Secretary