What is a food co-op anyways? It’s something I have wondered about on more than one occasion but never pulled the trigger. Last weekend, my friend Sheryl took me to the local one she recently joined to help me get over my food co-op fears. Here is the low-down on food co-ops and why they are good for you and the community.
According to Wikipedia, a food cooperative or food co-op is a food distribution outlet organized as a cooperative. Food cooperatives are usually consumers’ cooperatives, where the decisions regarding the production and distribution of its food is chosen by its members. The Arroyo Food Co-op started as a community project in late 2009, gathering together people in the Altadena and Pasadena communities who wanted a place to purchase local, sustainable, and organic foods in their neighborhood.
Why a food co-op versus the farmers market? Recently LA County cracked down on farmer’s markets for not selling what they advertise which happens more often then you think. Some vendors advertise organic produce when it is not or advertise that it is locally grown when in reality was shipped in from Chile. My point is, with many farmers markets you just don’t know if you are getting what you pay for or where it came from. With a food co-op you could literally go visit the farm if you wanted to…heck, they would probably let you plant some seeds while you are there. I also like that the food co-op is open set hours most days of the week which makes running in for a few items pretty convenient.
One of the things that Arroyo Food Co-op has asked its members to do is switch some of their shopping from the usual spot (for me that’s Trader Joe’s) to the co-op. Yesterday I stopped in and picked up some veggies and beans for a soup I wanted to make. The beans are heirloom variety from Rancho Gordo (Fat Ranch!) in Napa Valley and has recipes on how prepare their beans on the website. There are lots of other goodies to chose from like local raw honey (good for allergies), artisan breads, and cheeses.
If you live in Pasadena or Altadena, then be sure to check out Arroyo. If you are not local then check your area to see if you have a co-op near you. Maybe you are ready to take the leap like I did…a little nudge from a good friend doesn’t hurt either!