When asked recently: “Which of the cooperative principles attracted you to the co-op?” I realized that long before I knew there was an actual list of International Cooperative Principles, I noticed there were people who cooperated with each other to make the world a better place. A lot of these people back in the 1970s seemed to hang out at the local co-op grocery store.
When I moved or traveled, I would first seek out the local co-op in order to find these people. I then began to share their foods.
It has been standard practice in every culture to cherish certain foods, to frown upon other foods, and even to refrain from socializing with people whose daily diets are very different from one’s own.
Over the years, our cooperative nature has greatly expanded our views about whom we might rightly break bread and pass the fruit of the vine. We recognize a wide variety of dietary restrictions and indulgences, yet there is still an underlying purity we attempt to uphold.
I believe we do this because we recognize some kind of spirit in the food. Call it vitality, life force, the loving attention of the grower or the decision to support food producers who farm sustainably and treat workers fairly. Even when I can buy the same product in its homey, organic packaging at a big box store, it sometimes feels to me like something has been lost by its sitting there on the shelf without its friends. Okay, I’m an artist, so I think these kinds of thoughts: slave packages bought cheap and sold in great quantities to produce profits for the few.
Fortunately, I am also sane and can see beyond this fancy. There is something special about knowing that for over thirty years people at our co-op have actively weighed the pros and cons of their food choices, taking the health of the planet into account. Knowing that care and consideration have gone into the products stacked in the aisles of the co-op makes me feel good.
Cooperation is a state of mind that fills the store and spills out into the community, and I am glad I am part of it.
Carol Bridges, Secretary, Bloomingfoods Board of Directors