The benefits of expanding membership and member involvement of a grocery co-operative

Expanding membership and member involvement of a grocery co-operative in order to reduce food insecurity and support sustainable food production through educational and outreach opportunities

Jacqueline Whalen

Whalen CooperativeA biweekly market night at the Common Good Co-op

One of the most difficult aspects of sustainability for me to personally reconcile is the cost of living life in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner. When you have to make a choice between the short term by paying less money now, and the long term by paying for the consequences of not living sustainably, it is the easier choice to choose the short term option. One of the main reasons for this is not just cheaper cost, but the lack of education most people have in terms of what it means to live sustainably and how it will affect them. People tend to recognize that it is better to live sustainably, but are unsure about why they should be living that way, how to accomplish living sustainably, or are just not able to accomplish this.

A large issue facing not just the South Bend community, but many communities around the world, is food insecurity and a lack of food justice especially for minority and low income communities. This food insecurity and lack of food justice has the potential to affect both the health of the consumer and the sustainability of Earth’s resources. Common Goods Grocery Co-op is trying to address both food insecurity and sustainable food production within the South Bend community by providing sustainably produced food at affordable prices. Many people do not have the option to choose sustainably produced food either because they are unaware that it is available or the price point makes it impossible for them to afford it.

Through education and outreach opportunities to both members of the co-op and residents of the nearby community, I believe that this disconnect can be bridged in order to achieve food justice and reduce food insecurity through both expanding membership to Common Goods Grocery Co-op and improving member participation. I am hoping to engage both the co-op members and local community residents to inform them how the food purchasing and preparing choices they make now can affect both their own health and the health of the environment. Educational and outreach opportunities may include events that the co-op has conducted in the past and the implementation of new opportunities to increase both the involvement of members within the co-op and expand membership within the community.