Thursday, August 21, 2008

The New Orleans Food Cooperative

The New Orleans Food Cooperative is one of the most promising upcoming progressive organizations in New Orleans. Actually, they have been in existence for over five years, but only this year began a campaign to open a storefront location. If you don't know what it is, check it out. Also if you are interested in the idea, please invest in a $100 Founding Member share. It's not a donation, it's an investment in a local business. I joined in February, and have been impressed with the organization's leadership; enough so to volunteer many hours with them. I also attended a cooperative business workshop weekend with fifteen other members of the NOFC in March. I have great faith in the prospects of the business, and am excited about their model, which seeks to truly include the community in the conception, operation, and profits of the organization. To date, over 450 people have joined the cooperative as fully paid members.

NOFC's current goal is opening a community owned affordably priced natural foods store in 2009, on the corner of St. Roch and St. Claude, which is directly in the middle of an area under-served by grocery stores. For many Post-Katrina New Orleans residents, healthy affordable food can be nearly impossible to obtain. After this store has been in operation for a few years, it is likely that the NOFC will expand to open another similar store in another part of town.

Some of you live outside of the New Orleans area but may be interested in buying in, as you would invest in any promising business. The truly unique thing about the cooperative business model is that every member has equal ownership in the business and therefore equal decision making power through the 100% democratic method of electing the leadership from the membership pool and voting on important business decisions. Another important advantage of a community owned and managed grocery store is that buying locally produced food and goods is a high priority, the profits and other benefits stay local, and the store will adapt to the needs of the community.

I lived in a housing cooperative, the Emma Goldman House in Madison Wisconsin in 2003 for two months and shopped regularly at a cooperative grocery store, the Willy St. Coop. Both are successful business enterprises that operative with high level of sensitivity for local issues, sustainability, health and the environment. However, the most impressive aspect of that experience was reflecting on the fact that I actually was partially the owner of that huge house and the grocery store! Wow!

I hope that you will at least take the time to check the website.



Find below the most recent email update from the NOFC:


Greetings all,

The co-op continues its organizing efforts but we could always use more help. If you've been wondering how you can help, please consider coming to our next Action Team Meeting, this coming Wednesday, July 16 from 7-9PM in the Community Center at 625 N. Rendon St for a report on what our various committees have been up to. Or, send an e-mail to info@nolafoodcoop.org and I (Amy George-Hirons) will get you in touch with the chair of the committee that interests you.

Our organizing committees are: Membership (outreach, membership drive), Communications (marketing and public relations), Feasibility, Planning and Implementation (the F.P.I) (just what it sounds like), Fundraising (grant-writing, member loan drive development, etc), Supply (inventory and supply chain development), Hiring/Human Resources (immediate and future).

While some of these committees have very well-defined duties and are hard at work, others are in the developmental stages. All welcome assistance. Note that while the F.P.I asks that volunteers commit to regular weekly meetings, the Communication Committee (CommComm) works primarily by e-mail and the Membership Committee often needs people for one-time tabling or flyering efforts. The Membership Committee could
also use some committed folks to spearhead the organization of the monthly potluck efforts. So: whether you have time for a regular weekly meeting or would just like to occasionally pitch in, we welcome your assistance!

In other news: June has been a slow month in terms of our membership growth but another 13 people bring our ranks to 428 people. Another 23 people have begun partial payment toward their memberships. We have an interim goal of 600 members by October 1 so it would be great if each and every one of you would encourage someone you know to join today (or, if you have not yet joined yourself, if YOU would join :) ).

Joining the co-op now is really an act of solidarity, an advanced commitment in a project that will benefit all of us. It is a fabulous thing to join a cooperative grocery store that already exists, to demonstrate one's support for the store in which one shops regularly. It is something of a leap of faith to project forward in time, to join a cooperative that exists in the future, in a bank account, in a series of meetings, in ideas.

This is what these 428 people have done and what we need more people to do. As we continue our fundraising efforts, we are using these numbers in grant proposals and while talking with cooperative developers around the country. To be able to say that 428 individuals have put forth their own money on this project is to say that these individuals are invested in the project--not just financially but emotionally as well.

So, one thing we can all do to help the co-op while we're staying in our air-conditioned houses in the heat of these slow July days is to encourage others to join (neighbors, co-workers, partners, whomever)

Benefits of membership include:
• having a store– obviously your biggest benefit!
• part ownership of the NOFC
• a vote in board member elections and on special issues
• eligibility to serve as a board member
• a member financial benefit, yet-to-be-determined, upon opening of the grocery store

We realize these benefits are primarily abstract at the moment but we hope that you will help spread the word about what we are all working toward. Anyone can join electronically at nolafoodcoop.org

Partial payments are accepted, although these need to be mailed in or delivered in person.

As always, if you have any questions or comments or if you have ideas of a way in which you could help the co-op, please don't hesitate to share these with us. You can always send an e-mail to info@nolafoodcoop.org or telephone (504) 324-6849.

In the meantime, enjoy your hot July days.

Cooperatively yours,
Amy George-Hirons
NOFC Information Facilitator

2 comments:

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