Food for Change: A Documentary

At our July 2012 meeting, the Bloomingfoods board viewed the film Food for Change, part one. This documentary reports on the history of co-ops in America. One hundred seventy years ago, the first co-op sold butter, sugar, flour and candles to its owner-members, people joining together to provide for their basic needs.

Early co-ops were founded by citizens in need. Thirteen million Americans had lost their jobs in 1933. Sixty percent of the population were in subsistence living conditions. It was here in the midwest that the co-op movement began. By 1938, there were 15 regional co-op warehouses and every kind of business from co-op food, clothing, and hardware to gas stations and oil refineries!

At our July 2012 board meeting, we viewed the film Food for Change, part one. This documentary reports on the history of co-ops in America. One hundred seventy years ago, the first co-op sold butter, sugar, flour and candles to its owner-members, people joining together to provide for their basic needs.

Early co-ops were founded by citizens in need. Thirteen million Americans had lost their jobs in 1933. Sixty percent of the population were in subsistence living conditions. It was here in the midwest that the co-op movement began. By 1938, there were 15 regional co-op warehouses and every kind of business from co-op food, clothing, and hardware to gas stations and oil refineries!

All of this was undermined by the start of WWII when plenty of jobs were created to produce bombs, guns and machinery. Small farms were bought up by larger corporations. Promises began to be made by the now familiar world of advertising after the war, promoting the dream world in which people become "consumers" rather than "citizens."

This is one of the important concepts delivered in this historical documentary. Prior to the advertising age, people related to their communities, identified with "local" ideals, and measured themselves and each other by their contributions to their own town or city. After WWII, the concept of "consumer" took hold and people's minds generally shifted toward measuring themselves according to the goods they owned.

The co-op movement dwindled until the 1960s. In this era again, two million family farms went out of business. Then, as people began to be disappointed in the corporate grocery offerings, there began to be a new concern for fresh, wholesome food. This time, it was often the hippies who founded the new co-op food stores. Part one of our historical movie stops here.

As we observe our current world issues—job loss, increasing poverty, loss of family farms, many wars— we see similarities to these earlier challenging times. But we also see differences. Now, the average person can be in communication with people worldwide. We have the potential not only to be global consumers, but also global citizens.

We do care about the world as a whole and everything that goes on there. We see the connections. It is a big job to take on global citizenship, but, as has been said in so many ways, we can start here at home with co-op principle #7, Concern for Community. To do a good job, we need you. You own the store. "Part two" of our co-op history will be just what we make it together.

by Carol Bridges, Bloomingfoods/BCS Board Secretary

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