As members of one of the oldest food coops in the United States, we call for more cooperatives. The Park Slope Food Coop was founded in 1973 at the same moment as many alternative art spaces. It was formed by a small group of neighbors who wanted to make healthy, affordable food available to everyone. Like alternative art spaces, it relied on the efforts and ingenuity of its members. Now, with over 16,000 members, it is a well-established institution.
How does it work? Members work once every four weeks. In exchange, they get 20 to 40 percent savings on groceries purchased at P.S.F.C. As a “work-only” coop, only members in good standing may shop there, but membership is open to all. More important, members can participate in the decision-making process about what is bought, sold, and how to run the Coop. Where does your food come from? How much does it cost? How can you participate in the purchase and distribution of food in your neighborhood? A recent and well-publicized debate concerned a potential Coop boycott of products from Israel, which was reported in thousands of newspapers worldwide. But the Coop also provides education about food and health, and free daycare for members while they are shopping or working.
The Coop carries some of the freshest and most affordable food in the city—much of it organic and local—which is why, despite busy lives as teachers, writers, parents, social workers, artists, massage therapists, students, and those of us working in other vocations are members of the Coop. There’s more, though. Standing around three steel tables in our aprons, bandanas, and plastic gloves, cutting and wrapping cheese, bagging olives, dried fruit, nuts, spices, and tea, we discuss everything from politics to parenting—and argue about what music to play. The Coop is a community, and our squad is a micro-community within that.
The P.S.F.C. is a robust and functioning organization, a model of the well-run coop that has been studied and replicated around the world. And so we call for cooperatives as a model for the economy and for everyday living: cooperatives for daycare, education, banking, and farming. And we wonder, since the Coop was founded at the same time as venues like Artists Space, White Columns, P.S. 1, and A.I.R. (the first artist-run gallery for women in the United States), what would cooperative museums look like?
ContributorMembers of the Park Slope Food Coop, Food Processing Committee, C Week Monday Afternoon Squad