Monday, January 24, 2011

Food Coops Over the Years

Photo credit: Dave Robbins Photography

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Between the work I am doing as the Chair of the New Haven Food Policy Council, and my new paid work helping to get a new grocery store and food coop in New Haven, CT : Elm City Market off the ground, I've been more than busy. And, let's not forget the family: many sick days and snow days. It's been a full month and there are more than a few half written blog posts awaiting my attention. While I try and find time to finish those I thought I'd share a few links to some food coops that I have either been a member of or have shopped at over the years.

I grew up lending a hand at the original New Haven Food Coop when I was a kid in the 70's and 80's, until it closed and turned into a Meat Market and Hostess outlet (no joke!). When I was in College in the early 90's at Sarah Lawrence, I moved to Brooklyn to dance and teach and joined the Park Slope Food Coop, a fairly unique food coop, one of the few left where a monthly work shift is required of all members and only members are allowed to shop at the store. I loved being part of this coop, and many years later when my son was born, my husband got a job there as one of the few paid employees, so we felt even more a part of it. There was a window of time in the late 90's when I lived in Boston, and I joined and shopped at the Harvest Coop in Cambridge and in Jamaica Plain, MA. This coop was more of a standard small grocery store open to the public where anyone could shop but members had special benefits and discounts.

You may have heard me say more than once that my life revolves around food, and I do mean this literally. When I travel or spend any time in another city or town one of the first things I do is go in search of a grocery store, food market or food coop to explore. I love wandering the aisles noticing the familiar and the unexpected. What little gems might be waiting to be discovered on high up shelf,  in a prepared food case, or on a market table. As a child of the 70's, raised at least partially in a fairly alternative hippy community, I find visiting food coops particularly interesting. Many of them still around today were born of that era; natural food stores with a crunchy granola style and explicit social and communal missions. Some of them have survived, evolving in some ways, but holding onto their roots, others have closed and other new coops have been inspired by these older markets but try to create something new and more contemporary. Some of the new food coops strive to have an affordable mix of natural and conventional foods to help them appeal to a wider audience, many are open to the public: to members and non-members alike, and, all of them are striving to create a member owned independent grocery store in the face of huge corporate expansion.

For me, being part of a food coop has allowed me to have an even deeper connection to the source of my food and involvement in the community I live in. It just feels different to shop in a grocery store that you are a member/owner of. When there is a spill on the floor, I care more about helping to clean it up; if the item I am looking for is always out of stock I am more likely to talk to the manager rather than just buy it at a different store; if the store is doing particularly well or poorly, I feel proud or concerned. In other words, when I'm a member of a food coop, I'm invested in more ways than one, and this helps me and the store, so it is a win win situation.

Here are links to some of the food coops I have been a member at or shopped at over the years:
Park Slope Food Coop Brooklyn, NY 
Harvest Coop Cambridge and Boston, MA
Rainbow Coop San Francisco, CA
Flatbush food coop, Brooklyn, NY
East End Coop, Pittsburgh, PA
Brattleboro food coop Brattleboro, VT
River Valley Market, Northampton, MA

A few other coops of interest:
City Market, Burlington, VT
Willimantic Food Coop Willamantic,CT

Have you been a member at a food coop or shopped at one? 
Please share your thoughts below!


  1. Hello to you, Enroue and your family from PSFC! (Saw your post via Google Alerts for PSFC.) Things are busier than ever here in Brooklyn and at the Coop - so there's never a dull moment!

    Best wishes to you all,
    Charlene (one of the Office Coordinators)

  2. Thanks Charlene!
    Not sure how to contact you directly, but if you see this, please send our regards to everyone at the coop. we miss it soooo much! I'll probably be contacting Joe sometime in the future regarding all the coop organizing going on here.

    thanks for the note!

  3. I will pass on hellos! I wanted to also say that I really love your blog site here, and am going to try to make that Cardamom Bread this week (scary for me b/c I find breads intimidating, but exciting b/c I just got a shiny new stand mixer).

    I can be reached at: charlene.swift at gmail dot com.