Board's Voice: October 2019

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By Carol McFarland
Vice President, Moscow Food Co-op Board of Directors

Working on the Board of Directors at the Moscow Food Co-op is a true privilege and a dynamic experience. A lot has happened with both the Co-op and the Board in the year since our last fall retreat. We’ve had some loss and a lot of growth. We’ve been happy to bring four new directors in, and I’m so proud of how quickly they have come into their roles! We’re all getting on the same page and putting some deep consideration into our job of forward thinking for the Co-op – and just in time for our fall retreat!

This year we felt we’d all get the most out of our first off-site Board retreat in several years. We went to a training and cross-pollination workshop in Portland that was hosted by the consulting co-op Columinate. While attending, we were able to meet board members from five other co-ops in the Pacific Northwest and hear about their experiences. The topic of this event was a deep dive into looking at our “Vision of ‘We’” and our first Cooperative Principle of Voluntary and Open Membership. We spent our time scrutinizing how we can ensure that the way people experience our Co-op reinforces the prominent sign on our storefront that proclaims, ‘Everyone Welcome.’ We discussed efforts to become truly inclusive of all members of our community, and how that looks on the Palouse.

An insightful national survey for food co-ops was shared with us and shed light on different levels of engagement with the Co-op that can be broadly broken out into three categories: Owners, Non-owner Shoppers, and Potential Shoppers. Within these categories are Co-op Loyalists, Uninvolved Owners; “Why join?” Shoppers, Specialty Shoppers; Unaware Prospects, Aware Prospects, and Negative Perception Prospects. This launched a discussion on how to connect with people in our community who are at these levels and support them toward a higher level of engagement.

We want to do what it takes for everyone on the Palouse to know they are welcome at the Moscow Food Co-op. Working towards that goal includes unpacking what it means to be accessible to racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse groups. We were also able to acknowledge that inclusivity is something the management team already works toward every day, and celebrate the big boost to the FLOWER program, which is intended to boost Co-op accessibility to those affected by food insecurity. We are excited to use the momentum from this retreat to keep visioning our Co-op at the heart of the community we love.

It was an honor to attend this workshop with our group of thoughtful and committed people. Everyone was so enthusiastic that our driving times, breaks, and meals were all spent discussing how we can be our best as a Board. We are unified by the desire to help our Co-op keep serving good food to all the good people of the Palouse.

As we continue our discussions on this topic, please know that we would love to hear from you! What is your current level of engagement with the Co-op? What would be supportive on our end to help you ‘level up’ your engagement? Do you feel welcome in the Co-op? Do you have friends that might not? Our goal is for the whole community to love the Co-op like we do! Email us your comments at board@moscowfood.coop.


There's No Trick to the Co-op's Halloween Treats

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By: Mandy Makinen

When I was a kid, people in my neighborhood that wanted to hand out a healthier option on Halloween apparently had two choices: pennies or pencils. I can remember staring at those items, strewn on the carpet amongst my brightly colored loot, so out of context I could barely understand what they were. What is this, a pencil? How’d that get in here? A penny? Weird.

Now that I have a kid who has an allergy to red food dye, though, I see things differently. Those unconventional neighbors have been recast in my mind as bold, progressive heroes in the Halloween battle against strange new allergens and high fructose corn syrup. I’ve even considered following suit—what alternative could I offer visiting children? The flimsy spider ring? The tiny box of raisins?

Nolike fun. Prohibition? That ain’t me. For kids, Halloween is pretty much about candy, with a little dress-up and staying up late thrown in for good measure. So as I often do as a parent, I turned to the co-op for help—I needed gummy bears made with plant dyes and I needed them now!

Food co-ops have come quite a distance towards meeting us halfway on our, uh, less-than-healthy cultural traditions. There are abundant options for Halloween treats and—psst—they are ridiculously good. Even I-hope-we-get-fewer-kids-than-usual good, if you know what I mean. With ingredients like organic sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, sustainable coconut and palm oils instead of trans fats, and fair trade chocolate, these treats aren’t sleeping on the job—they are accomplishing multiple goals!

I’m not kidding myself to think that any of that is necessarily healthier to eat (though I believe an argument could be made), but I do know that organic is healthier for our environment, and for the health of the people involved in making our candy, fair trade is best. In the chocolate industry in particular, fair trade certification is the easiest way for us as shoppers to know that the cocoa beans used to make your chocolate were not farmed using unpaid child labor and other human rights abuses. Despite multiple news reports about unpaid child labor in cocoa production going back as far as 2001, the majority of chocolate we eat in the United States is still produced that way. I’m not in the business of bumming you out—so please do your own reading if you’re interested.

I am thankful that there are so many choices these days for how I spend my money; the ability to make a difference in the lives of the people in our communities and around the world that produce our food is abundant and, thanks to committed people all along the supply chain from farm to food co-op, readily available to me. Cultural holidays like Halloween knit our communities together—how great to live at a time where I can hand out candy and feel pretty good about it, too!