Thursday, February 22, 2007

Give it Up, Would-Be Food Co-Op

By John Birdsall
Thu, Feb 22, 2007 at 3:28 PM

Do food activists burn through time and money drafting solutions to stuff that isn't even a problem? Read Matthew Green's excellent piece on a would-be Berkeley food co-op in the current Edible East Bay, and you just might think so. A couple of ex-Brooklynites miss the Park Slope Food Co-Op so much they thought they'd remake it in Berkeley, a town collapsing under a wealth of retail food choices. Let's see: three weekly farmers' markets, Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market, the Berkeley Natural Grocery, the Cheese Board, myriad CSA deliveries, four Andronicos outlets, a Safeway, and, last but not least, Whole Foods. According to the vision statement for the venture (which is called CoG), "On the one hand, the Berkeley/Oakland area is rich with retail choices for healthy food and sustainable goods, but the elitist connotation associated with 'organic' and 'sustainable' prevents many people from considering it to be a viable economic choice." Green reports that CoG was recently turned down for a $10,000 grant from a co-op startup foundation, which pointed out that a boatload of sustainable food is already available here. Not only that, but a thriving co-op would probably have the most impact not on Goliaths like Safeway and Whole Foods, but on the farmers' markets. New York dudes, we've got an idea: Take the more than $30 grand that 270 families have already invested in CoG and donate it to Oakland's People's Grocery, the nonprofit that's spent four years trying to break ground on organic co-op in West Oakland, where retail food options are mostly cheese doodles and Twinkies. Now that would help fix the elitist connotation of organics.

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