by Harriet Tepfer
Shareholders, or “member-owners” of the Brattleboro Food Co-op have many reasons to be proud and happy about their status—not only are we shareholders owners of one of the largest food co-ops in the country, we have a state-of-the-art new store with more food and other product choices than we ever thought possible! And it’s ours—it’s not part of some large corporation that may try to portray itself as community-minded, environmentally conscious, etc., but in reality is focused on the bottom line for stockholders, a very different sort of owner.
THE CO-OP DIFFERENCE
How often do you think about the many ways that the Co-op is different from any other store at which you could be spending your hard-earned dollars? Do you know of another store with Ends Policies that are truly committed to the long-term well-being of you and of your community? Do you know of another store with Ends Policies at all? And how about a “100-Year Plan” with far-reaching goals to constantly improve who we are, furthering our goals of sustainability, our benefits to the community, and our commitment to healthy food and lifestyles? And the profits stay here, because we own it.
WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE
We BFC shareholders value our community and are eager to support it. Not only do our department managers “buy local” for us as much as possible, paying the producers fair prices for their goods, supporting our local economy, we—that’s YOU—support the education of members of our community of all ages and income brackets in how to buy and prepare healthy meals. Classes and workshops for adults and children are open to ALL members of our community (but shareholders get a special price on any event that has a fee). Just take a look at the calendar on the back page of this publication to see what’s going on this month!
We offer many benefits to our employees, including fair wages for their work. This too benefits our local economy.
We offer “Good to Grow” programs to area schoolteachers to assist them in teaching their students about their bodies and healthy food and activities. Currently, ten schools are participating in this outreach program, and more and more teachers are interested in taking advantage of it. Many Brattleboro school garden programs work with Co-op educators to explore the bounty of their work.
During the summer months, Clark/Canal kids come to the Co-op to learn about cooking (and sampling), and to familiarize themselves with even more delicious vegetables and fruits!
Boys and Girls Club members cook with Brooks of our Education Department every week. Youth Agriculture Program participants bring their produce to the Co-op on Wednesdays to cook and then sample their finished product at the Wednesday Farmers Market, right across from the Co-op.
Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Community Health Team members offer a cooking class in collaboration with our Culinary Demo Department to members of the hospital community who are interested in bettering their health by improving their diet.
As Co-op shareholders, we want all in our community to be able to share our enthusiasm for what we stand for, and to be able to feed their families fresh healthful meals, so the Brattleboro Co-op is collaborating with other co-ops in our area to develop a “Healthy Food Access Program,” which will offer discounts and education to make it possible for more people in our community to shop at the Co-op.
We as shareholders support local charities with financial contributions (chosen by shareholders when we vote for board members annually) and many in-kind contributions to support local fund-raising efforts.
Currently BFC has over 6,000 shareholders. Building our shareholder base is one way our Co-op becomes ever stronger. If the membership fee isn’t affordable all at once, we offer shareholders the option to pay off their equity in $20 installments every six months until they are fully vested at $80. We also offer a Shareholder Assistance Plan, where donated equity and profits from branded goods subsidize the equity amount.
As shareholders, we benefit every time we shop, with discounts, adding to our equity for possible patronage dividends, and starting this month, shareholder-only specials. Our community benefits every time we shop too, in all the areas I’ve described.
Aren’t you proud to be a shareholder? Now is the time to encourage your friends and colleagues who’ve been sitting on the fence to make that leap. It’s good for them, it’s good for you, it’s good for our Co-op, and it’s good for our community.
The next board of directors tabling will be on Saturday, Sept. 21, from 2 to 4 p.m. Stop by!