BRATTLEBORO, VT — A fixture of autumn in southeast Vermont, the Empty Bowls fundraiser for the food shelf at Groundworks Collaborative will look very different this year. This is the 17th year organizers have come together to raise funds for the food shelf now known as Foodworks.
As I don my COVID facemask and walk down Brattleboro’s Main Street, I hear Black Lives Matters supporters’ calls for justice and see MAGA (Make America Great Again) supporters seeking economic power and national pride. Though seeming to face off against each other, I see more similarities than differences in the messaging. Don’t we all want to live well in a place where we feel safe, proud, and a part of it? I like to think of the Brattleboro Food Co-op as a haven of safety and neutrality. To me, the Co-op has always been a place where we come together to meet friends, connect and share community – even during hard times. But is it? Can we be doing more to be an even stronger community connector and a truly welcoming space for all?
[BRATTLEBORO, VT, July 2020—] Our community will be eating 2,400 restaurant meals each week in August, for free. Everyone Eats! is a new program using federal funds to purchase meals from independently-owned restaurants in Brattleboro, all of which are struggling because of the coronavirus physical distancing rules. The restaurants, who are experts in the field of feeding people, will be assured revenue and a role in our community. All people who need to eat will be fed. This is how Brattleboro does it!
Hanna Jenkins’ spiritual connection to flowers originates from her experiences with the bookends of life. Through the birth of her son and the death of her mom, flowers companioned her with comfort, solace, levity and inspiration. The establishment of Tapalou Guilds, her family’s farm, gave her the chance to truly understand that flowers can provide deep support and how important it was for her to try and spread that joy through her work. As their website states, “Tapalou Guilds is a family-owned and -operated, mission-driven flower farm in Guilford, VT. Our mission strives to evoke connection, healing, celebration and awareness, through flowers.”
Due to the current situation related to COVID-19, we have temporarily suspended our Bag a Bean, Demos/Tasting and Community Events through May. We hope to resume these programs in June.
Fear has been on my mind lately. You’d think, after living several (some might say many) decades in this society, that I would not be surprised at the centrality of fear to our human reactions and decisions. In my continuing education about white supremacy and my privileged existence, the constant drumbeat of fear in the appallingly consistent steps that we have taken against populations of color is overwhelming. What in the world are we so afraid of?
I had no idea what I was going to write about until Grace, a newly elected board director, shared a link to in The Commons titled “Not a word, but an action.” It was the subtitle that ensured I would read the article very carefully: “What does ‘community’ really mean, especially for those who face moments of being outside of it?”
A three-part pop-up book group will be meeting in the Community Room from noon to 1:30 on Tuesdays in March, on the 10th, 17th, and 24th, to discuss White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. The discussions will be facilitated by Wesley Pittman.
At the Annual Meeting, Sabine Rhyne, our General Manager, used this phrase to characterize why shoppers chose the Co-op: “The reasons we, or at least I, head to the Co-op have to do with more than what is offered on the shelves.” In some respects the Co-op difference is intangible, elusive. In addition to purchasing food, you might see someone you’ve been meaning to call, hear live music in the café, and/or alleviate the feeling of ennui we can experience in our disconnected society. I know that I shop the Co-op for a myriad of reasons—it’s about the food, but it’s not just about the food.
For every Christmas tree we sell on December 7th from 10am – 5pm, we will donate $15 to Groundworks Collaborative. The trees are grown by family-owned Bishop Tree Farm in Springfield, VT. Not interested in buying a tree? Stop in and donate non-perishable food to the Groundworks Collaborative and Project Feed the Thousands campaign. We will have warm drinks, snacks and a lively group of people collecting food and helping to load trees on cars.
This October, Brattleboro Food Co-op is joining over 40,000 co-operatives and credit unions across the United States in celebrating Co-op Month, observed nationally since 1964. This year’s theme, “Co-ops: By the Community, For the Community,” was chosen by the National Cooperative Business Association to promote how co-operative enterprises enable people to work together to meet their needs and build stronger communities.
As we continue to work towards the complex improvement of our downtown, I continue to think deeply about the rather wide-ranging views of what both compassion and reasonable accountability look and feel like. No doubt like you, I contemplate this on a personal level, on an organizational level, and on a community level.