Last February, the board went on their annual retreat for a day and a half to discuss ideas for continuing to make Bloomingfoods a center of community cooperation. We wanted to accentuate all of the positive things going on not only at the stores, but in the world in general. We try to function as a hub of activity that serves the common good and make the lifestyle which contributes to planetary well-being one that looks inviting and fun as well as wise.
One of our goals is to bring people together not only as shoppers, but to be present at community events and support the many humanitarian organizations that work in our local area. You can see Bloomingfoods at Lotus Festival each fall and every week at Farmers' Markets as well as other events. Sometimes we work behind the scenes too. For instance, a nationally-run charitable project whose focus is feeding children in under-developed countries partnered with Tree of Life, a local distributor, to package 70,000 rice-based meals at their warehouse. With the help of a dozen Bloomingfoods volunteers, meals packed exceeded 77,000.
We constantly affirm that obstacles can be overcome and creatively look for ways to keep not only the stores but our local economy vibrant. Working with small local producers and growers is a routine activity. Currently, we are exploring ways of connecting with other co-operative businesses in the region. Why co-ops in particular? Because they are owned by the people who live here, and you elect the board members who set the policies. In other words, you are in charge.
Wendell Berry says, "A viable neighborhood is a community; and a viable community is made up of neighbors who cherish and protect what we have in common." Protecting anything means not consuming it until it is gone. Therefore, sustainability is always a priority in our decision-making. Our shoppers have chosen to spend more than $1.82 million on local goods, a 13% increase over last year.
Our Elm Heights store project came together with tremendous member-owner support, raising 3 million in member loans. BCS membership in general is higher than ever, currently over 10,000. We had sales growth of over 4% in 2012, 70% being member-owner purchases. All of this shows us that you realize how important it is to create local food security. With increased access to information, we know that you are sharing what you learn about food, nutrition, cruelty-free practices, costs of distribution, the fate of family farms and problems which loom large in our society. Keep up the good work.
We count on you to be informed and do as much as we can to educate our member-owners on important food issues. But with so many member-owners and customers, we realize that you are the real engine of education. Your support for Bloomingfoods stores tells us you are paying attention, want to make our city/region/world a place that re-generates life, and you are willing to put your money where your mouth is. We are deeply grateful.
for the Board of Directors