In September 2012 the Bloomingfoods member-elected board heard a report from Tim Clougher regarding the ways that other co-ops across the country are trying to meet the needs of lower income customers.
These co-ops tried to remove five major barriers to access to healthful foods.
"How do we give back to the community rather than just take from it?" This was one of the concepts explored in Part Two of the film Food for Change, which we viewed at our recent board meeting. Many co-ops were started in the early 1970s to counteract the takeover of the food business by large corporations. At that time, two million farmers had been driven out of business, six million taken over by agribusiness.
The cooperative movement was a non-violent pursuit of a better way of doing things. With high ideals and not much economic savvy at the time, 800 co-ops were started. That number declined to 200 until the recent "third wave" of new start-ups. People again want to take back control of their lives. They especially want to see their local areas prosper. We want to make sure that everyone is fed and fed well without the increased dangers of contamination, delay or just plain "no food today" due to transportation problems or catastrophe.
At this time of year, though many of us are busier than ever, we try to take some time out to give thanks for our blessings. All of your board of directors want to let you know how much we appreciate you. Starting with the employees of the Bloomingfoods grocery stores, we wish to compliment you all on your dedication to making everything work. Your services for all of the special events you cater for us as well as your usual daily jobs are so very important. We receive many compliments on the foods you prepare and the friendly manner with which you serve our customers.
Next, the administration staff does an excellent job of making sure all of the office work gets done in such a smooth and timely fashion that we never hear a complaint. Personally, I have only heard what a great organization BCS is to work for. Thanks for doing everything from bookkeeping and taxes to community relationship building and supporting the arts.
We especially want to thank Darcy Harvey at this time for her impeccable work helping the board fulfill its functions. Darcy is leaving us in December for a stint of world travel. We wish her all the exciting adventures she desires and hope she will return with great stories to tell.
Finally, we wish to thank all of our loyal customers and member-owners. You are growing our co-operative business which supports local and organic growers and provides healthy food for our community. We only have to recall some of the recent weather disasters to know how important it is to have a vital local food system as well as a strong sense of neighborly helpfulness. Thank you all for making it work.
Carol Bridges, Secretary
BCS Board of Directors
Each year, the BCS/Bloomingfoods board has a mini-retreat in December to refresh ourselves on our personal ideas of what BCS can become in the future. This year, after many months of having to attend to reports and financial numbers each meeting, we decided to use some theater games to bring out our vision in a new way.
Each board member and our general manager brought three symbols of what we hoped Bloomington would look like in the next 25 years. As we sat the symbols on the table before the group, we explained why we had chosen it. One of the themes that emerged was a strong desire to see the community become more like the 1950s Main Street in the sense of welcoming small businesses, this time more of them being co-operatively-owned.
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