So, this seems like a good time to fill everyone in on how we got this point. Even though this whole GW Food Co-op Initiative is probably a new idea to all you readers out there, it’s an idea that has been incubating with a few of us for a while. Some friends and I manage the community gardens on GW campus and work hard producing food 3 seasons a year. The Food Justice Alliance also has a super awesome blog too, check it here. Through this garden initiative we have learned how sustainable food can bring a community together. These gardens and promoting urban grown food have been such a success that we wanted to run with the idea a little more. Could it be possible to cultivate, harvest, process, consume, and compost all the same neighborhood? That sounds crazy! We already cultivate, harvest, and compost here so how can we complete the circle, while educating students and the community about localizing their food?
We came to the conclusion that we needed some sort of space. This space needed to be a gathering space where people could come together and eat yummy healthy ethically produced food. Not only do they need to eat it, but they need to truly embrace it. They need to learn how to prepare it and familiarize themselves with some of the fantastic alternatives to highly processed food. Things like kombucha, tempeh, quinoa, and chia shouldn’t be scary! They also shouldn’t be out of price range. We wanted to find a way that would truly make sustainable food from local farmers affordable. That’s how we came up with the idea of a food co-op. You are probably thinking…ANARCHISTS, but it’s not that at all. A co-op is merely a cooperatively run business. The workers are the consumers and they get to decide the message they want to send through food. Ideally, they have common goals for the business and if not, they use consensus based decision-making. The short story is that a cooperative business has many stakeholders, a large support network, and people who truly care about its longevity. These principles make it a sustainable business model.
Did I just say business model? Do I know anything about starting my own business? Or writing a concept design or business plan? Executive summary? Point of Sales System? How to run inventory? Storefront licensing? Start-up costs? OK, OVERWHELMED. Fortunately, this panic only lasted a short time, because this kick ass non-profit called Cofed saved the day. Cofed stands for Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive. They are a team of INSPIRGIZING individuals that help students like us start cooperative cafe’s on our college campuses. Talk about a match made in heaven! Actually, this idea we have isn’t so profound. Instead, it is the way of our generation. The food systems in this country obviously need to change and a cooperative cafe or grocery mart selling local, sustainable, ethical food, is our generation INSTITUTIONALIZING this demand. If McDonald’s isn’t going to roll over and say Uncle then we are going to have to push forward without them.
Healthy food for all is the name of this game–and it doesn’t just apply to students. Though we at GW consider ourselves to be important, we are surrounded by a larger city that struggles with food deserts. That means that large populations of DC do not have access to fresh food besides what you can find at a corner store. (not much) Even more frightening, much of the DC population lives in food swamps! Food swamps are areas where there is an abundance of unhealthy food choices. We hope this idea we have can be a model for the rest of DC. We want to encourage community members from all over to support our future co-op. This whole healthy food idea might just be the vehicle that brings GW students closer to their surrounding community, that tips the scale for economic barriers on sustainable food, and that paves the road for DC to aid its food access problem. Most of all, we hope that this initiative teaches consumers that their wallets (when they’re hungry) are their most powerful tool in changing our current food system.
So, we are going to need all the help that we can get. If you want to see this noble idea turn into reality…
-Follow our blog!
-Get on our email list by request,
-Come to our meetings, time/location to be announced on this blog
-Donate to our seed money pool on our donate page and receive updates on the direction of that money
-Tell everyone you know about this project! It’s all-inclusive
-Keep supporting your neighborhood farmer’s markets and sustainable farm projects
Thanks for reading…if you have any questions about our story, leave a comment!