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Food co-ops becoming more and more 'a way of life'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 1st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Food co-ops were once the province of hippie communes or cosmopolitan cities with strong left-wing policies. However, more food co-ops are gaining popularity all over the United States, particularly in the southern states, where people are hoping to expand on what they view as more than just a "shopping experience" -- but a way of life.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Sevananda Natural Foods Market, located in Atlanta, Georgia has been in business for 37 years. The market is planning several programs to recognize the International Year of Cooperatives, including "monthly mixers" throughout the year.

The mixers are "an opportunity for us to extend the relationships we have with members beyond the shopping experience," advertising and marketing manager Ahzah Simons says.

Sevananda has over 4,000 members. Unlike other co-ops, Sevananda makes its food available to the general public. The co-op members get to share in the grocery store's profits and take part in electing the board of directors.

The mixers feature presentations by wellness partners and board members, artist alliance members who will do performances, as well as sampling of vegetarian foods, raw foods and different styles of cooking. The presentations will run though October, which is co-op month.

Member services manager Holly Blain has seen more co-ops open in the U.S. within the last year than during the last two decades since the co-op movement got started. Blain sees a growing co-op movement nationwide. Blain says the next five to 10 years will prove whether they will become sustainable.

Many co-ops are "still limited in scope of what they cover, the type of products, and how often during the year they may be open," Blain says.

"When we can share these (wholesale) prices among 300 people, it's easy to get people in on that," she said.

"Most of it has to do with community aspects. Thousands of people band together to provide for each other, it's kind of this big joint thing to provide better services and better products," General manager Tom Pawlenko says.

"As the idea of community has been fractured by so many people not living where you grew up, you make your family where you are," Blain said.

"I can tell we have something in common because we're both shopping here. You can have a conversation around the apple stand - you never know where it could end up. It's an intentional community around food," she said.

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