Organic food heaven at Park Slope Co-Op
Park Slope Co-Operative has myth like status in New York. Prior to my visit, New York friends laughed at the possibility of me getting access in to the renowned supermarket. I couldn't understand why it held such cult like status, it's just a supermarket, right?
Wrong. This place is amazing. I have never witnessed such a well organised, implemented and engaged business. I knew nothing about co-operatives prior to my visit except for the fact that my grandfather was the first Irish person on the board of the UK Co Operative Wholesale society. I stood with my nose pressed against the window of the Park Slope Co-Op watching with amazement the number of people coming in to shop, the large boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables they were carrying out and the fact that all the staff were engaged and busy.
I was lucky enough to have a fantastic tour from one of the Co-Op Co-Ordintors Ann Herpel. I was connected to Ann via my friend Lizzie who is a member of the Limerick Urban Co-Op who took Ann over when they were establishing their Co-Op. Ann explained to me that there are over 17,000 members in the co-op and in order to remain a member you work for 2 hours and 40 minutes every 4 weeks. This allows the co-op to keep the food prices very close to wholesale prices as they only need to employ minimal office staff. The shop floor was a hive of activity, full of workers unpacking boxes and shoppers elbowing each other out of the way to get to the good stuff. But it's all good stuff, the selection of food is incredible, there is so much organic and locally sourced produce my mind was blown. Signs everywhere saying 'Organic', 'GMO Free' and 'locally sourced within 50 miles'.
Downstairs the packaging was well organised and divided for recycling. The Co-Op works with Terracycle to recycle difficult to recycle items like soft plastic and allows members to add to this collection. There were boxes of fresh food ready for the local soup kitchen. Often in Tesco in Belfast I observed the large piles of unhealthy sugar filled foods donated to soup kitchens. It was heartening to see healthier food making its way to the New York soup kitchens.
Admirably the Co-Op has had a long history of being politically active in their store produce choices. During the apartheid regime goods from south Africa were banned, during the Pinochet regime Chilean grapes were removed & Nestle products were banned due to Nestles campaign to promote infant formula instead of breastfeeding. What an amazing organisation and I am so grateful to Anne for taking so much time to show me around such an inspiring place.
3 Take Aways
- You are either a co-operator or you are not
- Be more politically aware about where your food is coming from and what you are supporting
- Share food more