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6 Ways a Food Co-op Can Change the Economy

A friend of the Co-op tipped us off to the video below, which is from the keynote address at the Berkshire Co-Op Market annual member meeting, November 1, 2014. We just got finished watching and found it a helpful piece to remind us of several of the reasons we're involved in this effort. If you have 27 minutes or so, please give it a watch, if only for the humorously-drawn cartoons.

Speaker Janelle Orsi is a Post Carbon Institute Fellow. Several of her concepts are very helpful in keeping the benefits of a co-op in mind.

For example, watch the sequence starting at 2:17 and just imagine "South Philly Pinball" in place of "Berkshire Pinball" and that your dollar is the one bouncing around from the Co-op to various local suppliers of the Co-op's inventory.

At 10:46 of the video, Orsi boils down cooperatives--generally--into two features:

1. Board is elected on a one vote per member household basis. In other words, capital investment doesn't determine voting power. 

2. Profits are distributed on the basis of patronage (i.e. how much you spend at the Co-op). Capital investment does NOT determine profit share.

Or, as Orsi puts it: "Cooperatives are business in which money cannot buy power. And money cannot buy profits."

Here it's necessary to point out that the South Philly Food Co-op is still some ways away about making decisions about distributing profits but the sentiment generally holds true. So far it has played out in the fact that each member-owner equity share is $200 for every household. And no household can put more than $200 in and expect to have any more say in voting or distribution of profits. (Now... more than one person in a household can invest the full $200, but in that case each person is considered his or her own member-owner household. No individual person can ever have more than one vote.)

Orsi's 6 ways a food co-op can change the economy derive from six roles a food co-op can play in the community:

1. Food co-op as buyer: supporting other local businesses, like we hope to do with the #ShopSouthPhilly businesses who have supported us!

2. Food co-op as convener of purchasing and people power: Amazing how much influence a group of 600-1000 households can wield in this town!

3. Food co-op as a learning hub: The South Philly Food Co-op has done this through our various Eat and Learn events (like The Skinny on Fats) and other Speaker series events (like Chard over Cheetos!)

4. Food co-op as research hub: Hey, South Philly, what do you want to see in this neighborhood!

5. Food co-op as a physical hub of the community: fingers crossed on this one! Our Real Estate Committee is working every day to find the Co-op's home so it can be precisely this... a hub of the community.

6. Food co-op as investor: Money bounces around South Philly in that South Philly version of pinball.

If you're a member already, you can feel good that you're helping to open an enterprise that will do ALL of these things, and more, for the community you call home. If you're not a member yet... join now! Get in now and be part of the effort to help us find and finance our new home!