Fri, 26 September 2008
Listen to a few broadcasts of Deconstructing Dinner, and choosing food may suddenly become an intimidating adventure. Of course there are alternatives to the industrial food system.
Enter the co-operative model of operating a business. Long an example in Canada of how people can assume control over our needs and resources, co-operatives is the focus of this ongoing series.
How does a co-operative differ from a traditional business? A co-operative is owned and democratically controlled by the people who use the services or by those working within the co-op. A co-op is operated for the benefit of members and members have a say in decisions affecting the co-op.
The urban area of Urbana-Champaign, Illinois has a population of around 200,000, but up until recently did not have a natural food store easily accessible to the public. There was however, an underground food co-operative in the basement of a church operating for over 30 years. In late August 2008, the Common Ground Food Co-op surfaced and it now sits above ground in a brand new building.
At a time where the economy in the United States is being hit hard and loans are a hard thing to come by, the Common Ground Co-op implemented an innovative financing model that sought close to half of its financial support from members themselves. Certainly a sign of a supportive community wishing to take greater control over their local food supply.
Jacqueline Hannah, General Manager - Common Ground Food Co-op (Urbana, IL) - Jacqueline has worked in retail and service management for over fifteen years and after my her first job working for a corporate bookstore chain, she has worked exclusively for independently owned shops. She pursued joining the co-op staff because she wanted to work somewhere that was truly in line with her ideals; where community always came before profit and where it was believed that fiscally sustainable business is not only possible when putting people and the planet first, but that its actually the way to thrive.
Clint Popetz, Board Chair - Common Ground Food Co-op (Urbana, IL) - Clint has been involved with the co-op since 2000, and has previously served as a Tuesday night coreworker, an outreach liaison at the farmer's market, a store operations coordinator, a facilitator for coordinator meetings, and a bread baker. Through his role as board chair he hopes to help build a strong and stable future for the co-op, helping to increase the level of empowerment and accountability within our organization in order to create a co-op that can achieve its goals of spreading the joy of good food and cooperation to a larger and more diverse community.