by Harriet Tepfer
If you’re a typical Co-op shopper, you’re probably pretty focused on your list and greeting friends when you come to the store, so you may not always notice small changes and improvements being made. Changes to our Co-op generally are the result of suggestions from a number of people, including customers, staff, and industry professionals.
Although directors are not charged with operational decisions (in fact we are expressly discouraged from meddling in this area), as your elected representatives we are nonetheless extremely interested in how satisfied shareholders and shoppers are with the store. Each month two board members sit in the store for two hours to chat with shoppers, and your feedback is reported back to the board and on to management for their
consideration. In addition part of our General Manager’s report to the board each month includes information about current efforts meant to improve service and meet our customers’ needs and desires.
The Board of Directors is charged with ensuring that our Ends Policies are being met, and we receive a monitoring report from Sabine in September of each year detailing how well we are doing in meeting our Ends Policies. The following are some improvements to be aware of:
Information: A number of significant changes have been implemented to enhance your experience. The “Who Knew?” signs next to certain products in every department (in response to customer requests for more information – Ends Policy #6: “Relevant information about food and related products“) are informative. These will be changed two to three times a year. Also related to our policy of providing information about products, our Co-op will continue to provide COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) for our meat and seafood, although as of this past February this is no longer required by the FDA. There have been requests from customers that we provide more country-of-origin information on rice, and this is in the works.
Affordability: The “Co-op Basics” and many rotating specials, as well as truckload sales, make shopping at the Co-op increasingly affordable for all. “Co-op Basics” options are now available in the Deli (Ends Policy #1 “Reasonably priced food”). Pennywise Pantry Tours are offered to anyone who wants education on how to shop affordably. And for those who qualify, the “Food for All” program offers discounts for those on food support programs. All department managers are doing their best to balance competing demands for lower prices while also paying our employees fairly and giving our local farmers and producers what they deserve (Ends Policy #5 “A sustainable local economy”). This is not easy! The Shareholder Forum addressed affordability at their March Food Justice meeting, and all who attended got a clear picture of this complex challenge.
Perhaps you have noticed and purchased the very reasonably priced “Field Day” brand in the center-of-store, and by the time you read this the Meat department will have a new line of humanely raised Angus beef to add to their selection, giving us three price levels on ground beef.
Convenience: One big change that you will see starting in August will be a “center store reset,” which will also include some changes in Wellness/Housewares. These rearrangements of products will be implemented to bring categories of products into locations that make more sense as you shop. This has been carefully researched and thought through by management and staff, and though it may be a bit confusing at first when you don’t find something in its usual place, ultimately the goal is to make your shopping experience better.
Environmental Concerns: (Ends Policy #4: “A regenerative business that has a net positive environmental impact”) You may not see this, but staff have implemented a “Waste Stream Task Force” to study and recommend ways in which we can create less waste.
Cooperative values are integral to the co-op way, and the board formalized this last year by adding a new Ends Policy that reads, “A workplace community where cooperative values are modeled.” As someone who has served on the board through some difficult times in my seven years, I hope you will agree that we have made good progress in this area, and I trust that this progress will continue!