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.
[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!
Alaffia is a bodycare brand that exists not to make a profit but to fight poverty and increase gender equality. Olowo-n’djo Tchala and Prairie Rose Hyde met in 1996 in Togo, West Africa, when Hyde was there as a Peace Corps volunteer. They both grew up without much, though to differing degrees because of their countries of origin: Hyde’s family relied on assistance programs but she was still able to get a great education, while Tchala, one of 42 children (his father had multiple wives), had to drop out of school as an adolescent to help out his family. They married in the mid-90’s and moved to Olympia, WA, Hyde’s home town, and five years later they helped to form a shea butter cooperative in Tchala’s home, thinking they’d create jobs for women.
At our January 2020 Board meeting, our General Manager Sabine Rhyne said she was, “deep into her own learning cycle,” in response to the difficult discussion about race she facilitated with shareholders at the November Annual Meeting. I appreciate Sabine’s candor and the level of trust and respect she and BFC Board Directors have for each other. I am grateful that she shared this self-reflection with us, and thank her for providing me with a topic and a title for this article.
Perhaps a little of my personal history is in order as I begin my first year as the new Board president. I’m a baby boomer in my mid-sixties who moved to the Brattleboro area as a 29-year old. I’d just completed four years of teaching at a Waldorf school in New York City. Having grown up in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, this area geographically felt very much like home. Joining the Brattleboro Food Co-op was one of the very first things I did upon moving here in 1983 – quality food and a sense of community being my big motivators. (It was in college at the University of Maryland where I shopped at my very first co-op.) Soon with a baby and a toddler I spent a fair amount of time in the kids room at the Co-op when it was on Flat St. I also volunteered as editor of the first regular Food For Thought newsletter, a role I enjoyed for about 10 years.
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.
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we will be welcoming local organizations for our 4th Annual MLK Day Event. Join us between 10am and 6pm to meet and greet our local heroes: twenty organizations will be present in the store (in three consecutive 2-3 hour shifts) to inform, educate, and spread the word about volunteer opportunities in our community. Come hobnob with the coolest people in town! And remember, as a Co-op Shareholder you can receive up to 8 hours (4 months) per calendar year of your Shareholder Discount by volunteering at a local non-profit. At the Brattleboro Food Co-op, for more information 802-246-2821 or Shareholders@brattleborofoodcoop.coop.
Last year I wrote my first Co-op article on the topic of a welcoming community. To recap: In that article I spoke about my move to Brattleboro. It was a difficult time in my life, and I was seeking ways to make connections and find affiliation. One of my first decisions was to become a shareholder at the Co-op. I learned I could receive a discount by working two hours a month. Still groping to find my way I worked on average ten hours a week! I didn’t have other commitments and The Co-op was my “go to” place; I developed cordial relationships with Co-op employees, especially with those working the front end. I not only received a discount for my Co-op shopping, I also began to find the connection and affiliation I was seeking. Now I am a Co-op Board Member!
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.
Consider Bardwell Farm has issued a voluntary and precautionary FDA recall, for their Dorset cheese. The recall is due to finding Listeria Monocytogenes in their facilities. If anyone has this cheese and wants to return it, please return for a full refund. Please return the product to the Co-op.
On Saturday, October 12th, at Landmark College, the Empty Bowls Steering Committee will serve up the 16th Annual Empty Bowls Dinner to benefit the food shelf program at Groundworks Collaborative, now known as Foodworks.
Groundworks Collaborative has signed a lease on 141 Canal Street—the former home of Domino’s Pizza—as the new home for the region’s most heavily utilized food shelf program. The Food Shelf, which has operated from the Drop-In Center at 60 South Main Street since the 1980s, served well over 3,700 people in over 1,400 households in 2018.