May 2023

Year in Review – News from the Board of Directors

Dear MNFC Member-Owners, shoppers, and community members, 

I am genuinely honored to share news of the MNFC Board of Directors’ work. Each time I engage in Board work, I am grateful for how this model of ownership and governance is different from conventional grocery stores–our Co-op exists to benefit our community and recirculate wealth, rather than the traditional model of extracting wealth to benefit a small number of shareholders. This is remarkable. Thank you for being a part of MNFC. 

I am also honored to share this news because I am deeply proud of the work the Board has done over the past year:

  • First, we focused heavily on building our working relationship with our new General Manager, Greg Prescott, in his first year on the job. 
  • Second, we allocated significant time and energy to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) work. 
  • Third, knowing that several Board members were cycling off this year, we thought intentionally about recruiting new members.
  • Finally, as always, we continued to do our primary, ongoing work: we monitor policies that ensure MNFC meets the ENDS. We are also fiduciaries for the Co-op and monitor the financial conditions of MNFC. 

General Manager Transition 

Greg Prescott became General Manager in April 2022, and the Board actively cultivated a collaborative and strong working relationship with Greg over the last year. The Board creates and monitors policies that allow the GM the greatest possible operational freedom while still guiding the fundamental direction of the Co-op toward meeting the ENDS. In Greg’s first year, we focused on building trust and opening strong lines of communication by establishing shared interpretations and definitions of these policies. 


The Board hired Tabitha Moore to lead us through close to 20 hours of facilitated JEDI training between May and December 2022. Then, our JEDI committee began reviewing and editing our internal Board policies from a JEDI perspective. 

Board Recruitment, Onboarding, and Retention

Knowing that several Board members would be cycling off after lengthy terms, the Board mindfully recruited for this year’s election. We were proud to have an incredibly strong slate of seven candidates running for four open spots.

Ongoing Policy Monitoring & Fiduciary Responsibility  

Through our policy monitoring work as Board members, we have the privilege of witnessing the work of MNFC’s staff. This work is nothing short of incredible. Thanks to the combined dedication of the staff, and all of you shopping at the Co-op, we have had another profitable year and another year of making a positive community impact. The full details of the Co-op’s year and impact will be available in the Annual Report at the end of the summer and our Annual Meeting. 

Finally, this year, the Board hired an external financial auditing firm on behalf of MNFC. External financial monitoring is part of the Board’s fiduciary responsibility and does not reflect a lack of trust in the Co-op’s management. We complete audits every few years and financial reviews in between. The auditors’ findings assured the Board that MNFC’s financial reporting is consistent with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and that the internal, operational control systems of the Co-op are strong. As Member-Owners, you can feel confident in the financial conditions of MNFC. 

Looking ahead, the Board has set three main priorities for this upcoming year: 1) thoughtful onboarding of new Board members and retention of Board members 2) an ongoing commitment to cultivating a strong working relationship with our General Manager, and 3) completing our review of our “Board Process Policies” through a JEDI lens, as well as committing to approaching all our Board work through from this perspective. 


This year has been one of transition for our Board. Kate Gridley, Ilaria Brancoli, Nadine Canter, Molly Anderson, and Esther Charlestin all completed their time on the MNFC Board. All of them have been invaluable members of our team and have a combined total of several decades of MNFC Board experience. We will miss their voices in our meetings, and we look forward to seeing them in the aisles!

In cooperation, 

Amanda Warren (she/her) on behalf of the MNFC Board of Directors 

Amanda Warren is President of the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board of Directors

Supporting the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership

In honor of Dairy Month, which is celebrated each June, we’re shining a bright Spotlight on the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership. To understand the importance of this partnership and the impact it’s having on our local, organic dairy farms, we must first look back to the Fall of 2021, when 135 organic family farms across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and eastern New York received the sudden news that Horizon and Maple Hill Creamery were terminating their purchase contracts, effective in early 2023. To learn more about why these contracts were terminated, click here. This news put these farms, many of whom have been in business for generations, at serious risk of closure unless they find alternate outlets. In early January of 2022, the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership, a first-of-its-kind campaign in partnership with the Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association (MOFGA), was created to help solve the crisis of disappearing organic family farms in our region.

Nathan Rogers of Rogers Farmstead Creamery in Berlin, VT, pauses to give one of his grass-fed cows a chin scratch

The Partnership, a collaboration of farmers, processors, retailers, activists, and government agencies, invites consumers to pledge to purchase at least one-fourth of their weekly organic dairy purchases from brands that have committed to sourcing their dairy from Northeast organic family farmers. A central goal of the effort is to increase demand for dairy produced in our region, creating market stability to help save at-risk farms and build greater food system resilience for the future.

Strafford Organic Creamery owners Earl Ransom and Amy Huyffer, pictured with their family and their happy, grass-fed cows

We are proud to announce that your Co-op has joined the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership. To secure the future of organic dairy farming in the northeast, we’re committed to purchasing organic dairy products from brands that source their milk from our region. We’re also encouraging member-owners and the community to become informed about the Partnership and take the pledge to purchase ¼ of your weekly dairy products from Brand Partners. When you commit to buying one-fourth of your weekly dairy items from the brands that support our region’s organic family farms, you become a proud Consumer Partner with all of these farmers. 

Why Does This Matter?

Family farms reconnect us to the land and each other. They provide our communities with beautiful open spaces, abundant wildlife habitats, and rural charm. We pick fruit in their fields and orchards and pet their cows at county fairs. Family farms remind us where our food comes from and connect us with the hands that feed us.

When you pledge to buy the products from our region’s organic family farmers, you are not just helping to keep these farms financially viable. You are supporting true environmental and health heroes. Organic farmers foster healthy soils, which are both a founding principle of organic production and key to fighting climate change. Vermont’s organic farms release fewer greenhouse gases than their conventional counterparts, protect our water and other natural resources, are more resilient to extreme weather events, sequester carbon through their management practices, promote biodiversity, and provide greater community food security. Moreover, you are helping to support a fairer, more stable agricultural market, which keeps thousands of small family farms in business and thriving. In fact, organic milk prices are traditionally more stable than the conventional dairy market, so organic farmers often have an easier job of covering production costs. That means they have a better chance of keeping the lights on at the farm and the cows out in the pasture, where they belong.

Mercy Larson of Larson Farm and Creamery in Wells, VT pictured with one of her grass-fed cows

“The Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership celebrates the fact that when it comes to supporting our region’s organic family farmers, it really does take a village,” said Gary Hirshberg, chair of the Partnership and co-founder of Stonyfield Organic. “Everyone has a stake in the long-term financial health of our region’s farms and farm families. The simple act of pledging to purchase one-quarter of dairy items from the brands, processors, and farms that support these family farmers, can help to ensure that farms remain healthy, vibrant, financially viable, and environmentally and climate-positive parts of the northeast region for generations to come.” 

The late great Jack Lazor of Butterworks Farm in Westfield, VT pictured with wife, Anne, and daughter Christine, along with her family.

The decline in the number of small family farmers is unfortunately not a new story, as the United States, and especially the northeast, has seen drastic reductions in the number of both farms and acreage over the last decade. From 2012 to 2021 alone, Vermont has lost over 390 individual dairy farms as food production has largely been ceded away from small families, and into large, agri-business operations, through no fault of their own. However, organic family farmers are important contributors to a healthy environment and thriving rural life and are important players in the region’s food system. 

Elliot of Rogers Farmstead Creamery in Berlin, VT greets customers at his family’s organic farmstand

The next time you are shopping in the dairy or cheese cases, look for the Northeast Organic Family Farm Seal to identify Partner Brands. When you see the seal, you can be confident that your purchase supports hard-working organic dairy farmers in the Northeast. We will continue to lose our region’s farms without strong consumer support for their products. For more information on the campaign and to take the pledge, click here

Spotlight on American Flatbread

Our Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly on a company with humble roots here in Vermont – American Flatbread! From May 25th – 31st, member-owners can enjoy 20% off American Flatbread’s products (applies only to frozen flatbreads here at the Co-op, not at their fabulous restaurants). Read on to learn more about the history and mission of this locally-born company:


George Schenk, the founder of American Flatbread, founded his business with a firm understanding that food is more than what’s on the plate, which he shares in “The Five Faces of Food” and his simple phrase, “food Remembers the acts of the hands and heart.”

“Food is important. What we eat and how it’s grown intimately affects our health and the well-being of the world,” says Schenk. He created American Flatbread based on the philosophy of food for the greater good, and the company remains committed to building upon that legacy.

American Flatbread was born in Waitsfield, Vermont, but demand for frozen flatbreads soon outgrew the humble kitchens of their flagship location. Rustic Crust, the company that now produces American Flatbread frozen pizzas, took over the reins and says that they’re proud that George entrusted them with his mission and they remain committed to upholding it. 

Headquartered in New Hampshire, Rustic Crust continues to work with fresh, all-natural ingredients to bring you the authentic flavor you’ve come to know and love. According to Rustic Crust CEO Brad Sterl, “Our two good-for-you pizza brands make their home in the beautiful New England countryside, and are made by real people and using real ingredients. American Flatbread frozen pizzas feature 100% organically grown wheat crusts and topped with fresh herbs, vegetables, and the finest of cheeses (no rBST growth hormone!). They’re all-natural, with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, and handcrafted from scratch and par-baked in wood-fired ovens.

Truly nutritious, light, crisp, and flavorful — convenience without compromise – American Flatbread pizzas are honestly delicious, the best premium frozen pizza bar none, for people who care about pizza and the planet.


Why Choose Local Seedlings?

Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and according to local garden lore, this marks the date when many feel it’s officially safe to put even the most frost-sensitive seedlings into your soil. When choosing your plants this year, we invite you to check out our gorgeous local seedling offerings from New Leaf Organics!

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New Leaf Organics is a 1st generation woman-owned, certified organic farm nestled on the town line between Bristol and Monkton. Led by Jill Kopel, New Leaf Organics has been growing high-quality, deliciously fresh organic produce and flowers since 2000. As a gathering place for people through musical events, biking, flowers, and food, New Leaf is a lively and welcoming farm with a deep commitment to the local food system. Everything they grow is sold in Vermont, most of it within 25 miles of the farm! When in season, you can find their spinach, kale, parsley, fresh onions, and more glorious veggies & herbs in our produce department, but you may not realize that the full lineup of local seedlings sold on the Co-op plaza this time of year also comes from our green-thumbed friends at New Leaf! In this week’s Addison Independent, you’ll find a coupon for $3 off any local seedling at the Co-op, so this is a great time to adopt a few plants for your garden or sunny porch!


So, why choose local seedlings?

Aside from the fact that you’re supporting a wonderful local farm and keeping your dollars local, it makes good sense to purchase local seedlings for the assurance that you’re buying healthy plants that are regionally appropriate for our unique growing conditions here in Vermont. You’re also helping prevent the spread of plant diseases (blight, anyone?) and invasive pests like root aphids that travel in the soil. Additionally, many plants from large commercial nurseries, box stores, and garden centers are treated with plant growth regulators or PRGs. This class of chemicals is applied to nursery plants to preserve or encourage certain traits that help make plants more marketable. This might include bloom-holding capabilities on flowers or growth-stunters that would keep tomatoes, peppers, and the like from growing leggy while awaiting sale. PRGs are classified as pesticides and the residues of PGRs in agricultural products are seriously detrimental to human health due to their hepatotoxicity, nephrotoxicity, genotoxicity, neurotoxicity, carcinogenicity, and teratogenicity. Plants at large garden centers are also often treated with neonicotinoids. These chemicals are systemic, which means they are absorbed by the plant tissues and expressed in all parts, including nectar and pollen. Unfortunately, this spells disaster for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators that are so vital to our health and the resilience of our food supply.

By choosing local, organic seedlings, you’re choosing to support local farms, your local economy, and preserving the health of your local ecosystem. It’s a win-win!





Spotlight on Red Hen Baking Company

Our Member Deals Spotlight is beaming on Red Hen Baking Company this week! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their full line of freshly baked breads from May 18th – 24th. Read on to learn more about this wonderful local bakery that’s been turning out fresh organic bread 7 days a week for over 20 years!



The folks at Red Hen Baking Company are guided by a belief that pure, uncomplicated ingredients and the hands of skilled artisans are the building blocks for great food. Their bakery sprouted from humble beginnings with a staff of 8 on Route 100 in Duxbury, VT back in 1999. They were committed to using organic ingredients since the very beginning and became an established presence in the area’s many cooperative and independent food stores. Their bread was beginning to appear at more and more of the area’s finest restaurants and they became mainstays of the Montpelier and Waitsfield Farmers’ Markets. To this day, these venues still make up the core of their wholesale business.

After 8 years of hard work in Duxbury and a seasoned staff that had grown to over 20 employees (many of whom are still with the bakery today), they had the opportunity to move 5 miles down the road to the neighboring town of Middlesex. It was here that they established their new baking facility in a building constructed especially for their purposes with an attached café in a renovated building that housed the former Camp Meade Diner.

Their café has become known as a local destination and gathering place where people can enjoy not only the bread they’re so well known for, but also their increasingly lauded pastries, sandwiches, and soups. To supplement their own creations, the cafe also features beer, wine, and specialty food from near and far. Next time you’re cruising through Middlesex, be sure to stop in!

Although Red Hen has grown considerably since those early days in Duxbury, they remain dedicated to creating the very best food from the best possible ingredients. You can’t make great food without great flour (or potatoes or seeds or meal, as the case may be), so a great deal of time and energy is spent sourcing the very best of these items. In many cases, the folks at Red Hen are closely acquainted with the farmers and millers that are responsible for producing the raw materials used for baking their breads. In fact, over 90% of all the flour they use comes from two farmers within 150 miles of the bakery. Each year, 430,000 lbs of local wheat go into their breads!

Members of the Red Hen Baking Crew visiting Les Cedres farm in Quebec where some of the organic grain for their bread is grown.

They employ methods that are as old as bread making itself and these processes guide their days at the bakery. This method of slow fermentation produces a complexity of flavor, a chewy texture, helps the bread to keep longer, and even adds to its nutritive value. Each loaf is then formed by hand and baked in a hearth oven. The Red Hen family of breads runs the gamut from dense whole grain varieties to light and airy ciabatta and everything in between.

Red Hen Baker Randy unloading fresh baked baguettes

Giving Back

Like any good hen, the folks at Red Hen feel a responsibility to do what they can to nurture the community that has nurtured them. There is never a shortage of work to be done and there are so many good organizations doing that work, but each year their staff selects a few organizations that they would like to support. Last year they directed over $26,000 to the following organizations doing work both close to home and further afield:

To learn more about Red Hen Baking, check out their web page! You can view their cafe menu, read all about their diverse bread offerings, and find great tips for storing your bread to maximize freshness.


Spotlight on Alaffia

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Alaffia this week and Co-op member-owners can enjoy 20% off of their full line of Fair Trade Certified, Co-op-made body care products from May 11th – 17th!  It’s a great time to stock up and save! Read on to learn more about Alaffia and their efforts to empower African communities through the advancement of Fair Trade, education, sustainable living, and gender equality:


Alaffia was founded in 2004 with Fair Trade as the fundamental foundation of their organization, which is comprised of the Alaffia Village in Sokodé, Togo; the Alaffia Coconut Cooperative in Klouvi-Donnou, Togo; and the Alaffia headquarters in Olympia, Washington. Their cooperatives handcraft indigenous raw ingredients, and the Alaffia team in Olympia creates the finished products. Proceeds from the sales of these products are then returned to communities in Togo, West Africa through Alaffia’s nonprofit arm, the Alaffia Foundation, helping to alleviate poverty and advance gender equity through the Fair Trade of Indigenous resources and community empowerment projects. With every purchase, you directly support Alaffia’s social empowerment projects.


What impact have your Alaffia purchases had in these communities thus far?



Each year in sub-Saharan West Africa, 160,000 women die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Over her lifetime, a woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to 1 in 4,000 in developed countries (UNICEF, 2015). There are several reasons for the high maternal mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa, including extreme poverty and inadequate infrastructure.  It is possible to save lives with basic health care and gender equality.

Alaffia’s Maternal Health Project has two parts; The first is a direct approach by which Alaffia provides funding for full pre-and postnatal care, including special and urgent needs, to women in rural Togo. Alaffia product sales have paid for the births of 5,597 babies in rural Togolese communities through the Togo Health Clinic system!

The Alaffia Women’s Clinic Project is the second part of their women’s health efforts. In 2007, they formed partnerships with local Togo clinics to provide information and training on all women’s health issues, including nutrition, preventing female genital mutilation, and much more. They believe that saving mothers is a necessary step in reducing poverty. When a mother dies, her surviving children’s nutrition & health suffer, and they are more likely to drop out of school, reducing their ability to rise out of poverty.



The future of African communities depends on the education and empowerment of young people. Since Alaffia founded their shea butter cooperative in 2003, they’ve provided school uniforms, books, and writing supplies to children in Togolese communities to offset the financial burden these items have on families. They also donate desks and install new roofs on schools to make learning a more enjoyable experience. Since 2011, Alaffia product sales have funded the construction of 16 schools throughout Togo and provided school supplies to 37,521 recipients.


In rural areas of Togo, students walk up to 10 miles a day to attend school. There are no buses, and families cannot afford private transportation. As a result, school becomes very time-consuming, and most students decide to quit school in order to fulfill their family obligations. In rural areas, less than 10% of high school-aged girls and only 16% of boys attend school (UNICEF). In 2004, Alaffia began collecting and sending used bicycles to Togolese students to encourage them to stay in and complete school through their Bicycles for Education Project. Now, with over 10,817 bicycles sent and distributed, they are seeing a real impact on exam scores and retention in rural schools. 95% of Bicycles For Education recipients graduate secondary school.

Alaffia collects used bicycles in and around their communities in Washington and Oregon, with the help of their retailers, volunteers, and staff. All costs of this project – from collecting, repairing, and shipping bicycles, to customs duties, distribution costs, ongoing maintenance, and follow-up – are paid for through the sales of Alaffia products. This project brings communities in the US and Togo together. Bicycles that would otherwise be destined for the landfill are encouraging students in Togo to stay in school so they can lead their communities out of poverty. To find out how you can be involved, visit their web page or email



Deforestation and climate change have had a devastating impact on West African farming communities. Alaffia product sales fund the planting of trees by Togolese farmers to help mitigate soil erosion and improve food security for their families. 99,964 trees have been planted through this project! Allafia also conducts trainings to discourage the cutting of shea trees for firewood and charcoal to preserve this important indigenous resource for future generations. Additionally, they are investigating sustainable fuel alternatives, such as bio-gas and bio-oils, to reduce the demand for wood and charcoal.


In Togo, it is extremely difficult for visually impaired people to obtain eyeglasses. An eye exam costs as much as one month’s wage and a pair of eyeglasses can cost up to four months of wages. Alaffia collects used eyeglasses at retail locations throughout the US and employs an optometrist in Togo to correctly fit and distribute the glasses. A pair of eyeglasses is life-changing for a child struggling in school, the elderly with failing vision, and adults who have never been able to see clearly. To date, Alaffia has collected over 30,852 pairs of glasses.



Social Enterprise Model

Alaffia’s Social Enterprise Model is a comprehensive approach to providing safe, efficacious hair, face, and body care while alleviating poverty in West Africa through the preservation of traditional skills and knowledge in the global market. The following principles guide Alaffia’s Social Enterprise Model:

    Targeted areas of development (Maternal Care, Education, Environmental Sustainability, Eyeglasses) as mentioned above that safeguard basic needs for sustainable communities.


    Local resources and traditional handcrafting knowledge celebrate cultural diversity in the global market and ensure Alaffia’s safe, nutrient-rich, and efficacious products.


    Alaffia’s women’s cooperatives and collectives promote gender equality through fair wages and by celebrating the traditional skills and knowledge of West African women.


    Alaffia’s products are safe and effective alternatives for your health and wellness. They are both ethnobotanist and pharmacognosist informed. Third-party verification also ensures that Alafffia’s products are held to the highest industry standards.


    Clear communication and third-party certification showcase Alaffia’s high product standards. They are proudly certified For Life (by ECOCERT), and are Good Manufacturing Practices/GMP certified.


    Alaffia’s primary goal is to reinvest a portion of product sales into our Empowerment Projects in West Africa. Your purchase helps improve living conditions and supports an end to poverty.


Appreciating the Cultural Significance of Cinco de Mayo

Here at the Co-op, we love to celebrate the food traditions associated with various holidays, affording us the opportunity to get a glimpse into the beauty of a different culture through the preparation and sharing of a delicious meal. We also understand, however, that it’s necessary to recognize and honor the line between appreciation and appropriation. With this in mind, we’d love to take a moment to explore the history of Cinco de Mayo and offer some tips on ways to celebrate the holiday respectfully, honoring the rich heritage of Mexican culture.

What Is Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo, which translates to the fifth of May, is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s unlikely victory in 1862 over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. The holiday is also known as Battle of Puebla Day and should not be confused with Mexican Independence day, which occurred nearly 50 years prior to the Battle of Puebla. 

The spark for the Battle of Puebla was ignited in 1861 when Benito Juárez, a member of the Indigenous Zapotec. was elected president of Mexico. At the time of his election, the country was in financial ruin resulting from several years of civil war, which forced Juárez to default on debt payments to European governments. In response, France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz, Mexico, demanding repayment. Mexico was able to negotiate successfully with Britain and Spain, resulting in the withdrawal of their forces. France, however, under the rule of Napoleon III, considered it an opportunity to carve out an empire in Mexican territory and install a French monarch.

Assault to Notre-Dame de Guadalupite church in Puebla by French army soldiers. Created by Godefroy-Durand, published on L’Illustration, Paris, 1863

Late in 1861, a well-armed fleet of French soldiers stormed Veracruz, driving President Juárez and his government into retreat. Soon thereafter, 6,000 French troops under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. From his new headquarters in the north, Juárez rounded up a ragtag force of 2,000 loyal men and sent them to Puebla.

The Mexican troops, led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza, fortified the town and prepared for the French assault. On May 5, 1862, Lorencez led his army to the city of Puebla and launched an assault. Despite all odds, the vastly outnumbered and outgunned Mexican soldiers battled bravely from sunup to sundown, ultimately forcing the French troops to retreat. Nearly 500 French soldiers lost their lives in the battle, compared to fewer than 100 of the Mexican forces. 

The unprecedented victory solidified the pride and devotion to Mexican heritage among the people, who deemed Cinco de Mayo a holiday. The name later became a battle cry during other battles and is a holiday filled with love and respect for the people who fought so hard to protect Mexico. The immense pride and sense of accomplishment that came from overcoming such a prolific colonizer swept through the country and showed the world that Mexicans are fiercely capable of defending themselves.

Why Do We Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in America?

While Cinco de Mayo is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, celebrated primarily in the state of Puebla with military parades and battle reenactments, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. This began in the 1960s when Chicano activists in the US raised awareness of the holiday, in part because they identified with the victory of Indigenous Mexicans (such as Juárez) over European invaders during the Battle of Puebla. Today, revelers mark the occasion with parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing, and traditional foods such as tacos and mole poblano. 

Can Celebrations of Cinco de Mayo in America Be Problematic?

Some of the ways in which Americans have chosen to celebrate Cinco de Mayo have been fraught with controversy, and rightly so. The reinforcement of harmful stereotypes caused by celebrations that involve dressing up as Mexicans, using fake accents, and poking fun at the heritage while using it as a theme for parties and heavy drinking is deeply problematic. The team of diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants at TMI Consulting Group reminds us that “Cinco de Mayo is the story of the underdog. It is one of strength and resilience. In today’s world, the reminder that Mexican people are just as capable and deserving of equality is necessary. And being an ally to Mexican people is about so much more than throwing a party.”

How Can Americans Celebrate Cinco de Mayo Respectfully?

It’s important to show respect and camaraderie when celebrating, which means celebrating for the right reasons. A great first step is to take the time to understand the history and context for why you are celebrating, so thanks for taking the time to read this blog post! On Cinco de Mayo, consider honoring the foodways and history of flavors often present in Mexican cuisine by finding an authentic recipe to prepare at home. Try to source the products in the recipe from Mexican-owned farmers and food producers if possible (you’ll find Sonia’s Salsa in our weekly sale from April 29th – May 5th, and be sure to visit our Cheese Department display to find several varieties of authentic Mexican queso). If you don’t feel like cooking at home, consider patronizing a Mexican-owned restaurant.

Mole Poblano

Avoid fake accents and silly props and costumes such as sombreros, stick-on mustaches, maracas, and piñatas, which serve to reduce an entire people down to a few clichéd signifiers. It’s also wise to avoid decorations and regalia that are reserved for Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead (sugar skulls, flower crowns, etc.), “which is a Mexican holiday in which individuals honor their dead loved ones by visiting their graves or having celebrations in their honor,” writes Ellie Guzman on Medium. “For many, it is deeply religious and is a source of comfort that those that have passed on are still loved and are with us spiritually.” This holiday is celebrated on November 1st each year and has absolutely nothing to do with Cinco de Mayo. 

TMI Consulting group reminds us that “while there is nothing wrong with participating in Mexican culture and festivities in order to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, make sure you are supporting the community year-round, and not just for one day a year. This day honors the fight for independence and a win over European colonizers. As you celebrate, keep that in mind.” If you want to honor the Mexican culture and communities around you, take the initiative to learn how you can support them. A few options are to buy from Mexican-owned businesses and support organizations that work for equal rights for the Latinx community. Migrant Justice Vermont and Addison Allies are two great places to start.


Spotlight on Seventh Generation

Are you gearing up for some spring cleaning? Keep it green with Seventh Generation! They’re basking in the glow of the Co-op Spotlight this week and member-owners can enjoy 20% off their full line of products from May 4th – 10th! Read on to learn more about their energy-efficient practices, socially responsible business model, their fight for labeling transparency for cleaning products, and their impressive efforts to tackle climate change:

More than 30 years ago, a group of like-minded individuals came together to create Seventh Generation, a company dedicated to nurturing the health of the next seven generations. They do that by creating everyday products using plant-based ingredients, and by creating positive policy change through their mission and advocacy work. They’re on a mission to transform the world into a healthy, sustainable & equitable place for the next seven generations.


As a mission-driven founding B-Corps business, Seventh Generation aims to pioneer a more mindful way of doing business. They remain committed to examining their impacts as a business and considering the principles that matter to them as a company:  responsible sourcing; using materials from plants, not petroleum; ensuring the health of our planet and the people on it; having an engaged, motivated workforce; and caring for their community. They track their progress toward these goals and present them with total transparency. Click here to check out their most recent climate impact assessment.

Not Business As Usual

Our planet’s future and the health of generations to come are far too important for business as usual, which is why Seventh Generation constantly strives to make their products more sustainable, why they’re racing to reduce their carbon footprint and become a zero-waste company by 2025, and why they’re advocating for climate justice. They stand with the Youth Climate Movement and seek to use their platform to elevate the voices and initiatives championed by the leaders of the Movement who have heard the call and stepped up to lead the charge. 

As many climate activists have noted, though, this movement is about more than just switching to a renewable energy economy and curbing our fossil fuel usage. It’s about demanding true Climate Justice. It’s about changing our energy usage in a way that is fair and equitable so that frontline communities and those among us who are most vulnerable aren’t compromised in the process—as they often are. It’s about the need to divest from fossil fuels and invest in a renewable energy economy that prioritizes the health of people and planet over the health of the fossil fuel industry. The students have raised their voices and the team at Seventh Generation feels compelled to not only stand beside them but also to take action and use their own ability to affect change to help the movement grow and create the healthy future all of us deserve. As a sustainable business, Seventh Generation feels a responsibility to fight for that future and they invite you to join them. Click here to read more about their ongoing Climate Justice efforts.




Envisioning A Zero Waste Future

Packaging is more than just a container to the folks at Seventh Generation. In every packaging decision they make, they consider the impact on the health, safety, and sustainability of people and the planet. And as industry leaders in their use of post-consumer recycled plastic, their sustainable packaging embodies their mission to nurture the health of today and the next seven generations. By 2025, they plan to ensure that all of their packaging is sourced from 100% biobased or PCR (post-consumer recycled). By 2025, they also plan to ensure that 100% of their materials are reusable and reused, recyclable and recycled, or biodegradable and degraded. 

But recently, the company doubled down and shifted tactics to involve moving away from plastic completely, starting with a new line called Zero Plastic Homecare.

“What we realized is that we really need to take action and move ourselves as a business away from plastic, because as good as the plastic is or as little you use, recycling alone will never solve the problem,” says Seventh Generation CEO Joey Bergstein. In the U.S., according to an EPA report last year with the most recent data, only around 9.1% of plastic waste is recycled; another 15.5% is burned. The rest—26 million tons per year—ends up in landfills. That’s despite years of effort to improve recycling rates.

To eliminate plastic in the new line, the company rethought the products themselves. By using non-liquid products, the containers don’t need plastic to act as a “moisture barrier.” “If we remove plastic from the equation, that means removing the liquid from the equation as well,” says Joe Giallanella, who leads the company’s growth incubator, the team tasked with eliminating plastic from packaging. The cleaning power of these liquid-free tablets and powders is activated with water when you are ready. A fundamental clean is achieved without the use of dyes, bleach, wrappers, or plastic. And they will biodegrade once you are done with your cleaning routine.

For now, these products are available exclusively through a small handful of online retailers. This will allow Seventh Generation to test the products with a smaller audience before going more mainstream. We look forward to seeing how these work!

The Fight for Ingredient Disclosure

Seventh Generation firmly believes that you have the right to know what is in the products you buy, which is why they helped launch the #comeclean campaign. Through this campaign, they aim to air the cleaning industry’s dirty laundry. They support state and federal legislation to require manufacturers of both consumer household and industrial cleaning products to disclose all intentionally added ingredients, including fragrance components, on their product labels and on their websites.  Thanks to their vigilant efforts, landmark legislation (SB 258-California’s Cleaning Product Right to Know Act) was passed which required that, by 2020, companies must list certain ingredients on their packaging and website. It’s a major step forward in the fight for ingredient transparency and affirms our collective right to know what’s in the products we buy.  This victory wouldn’t have been possible without the emails, calls, texts, and tweets from our collective community.

Featured Co-op Connection Business – Royal Oak and Lost Monarch

Great coffee shops offer more than a good cup of joe; they provide a pleasant sensory experience for their patrons. It’s hard to deny the allure of the aroma and energy emanating from a great cafe. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing space to pull a caffeine-fueled remote work session or you’re seeking an inviting atmosphere to meet up with friends over a great cup of locally-roasted coffee, we invite you to check out Royal Oak Coffee! We’re thrilled to have Royal Oak as part of our Co-op Connection lineup, offering responsibly sourced, high-quality artisan coffee in a welcoming atmosphere along with a sweet 10% discount for card-carrying Co-op Member-Owners. Read on to learn more about this vibrant local business named to the list of the nation’s best coffee shops by Food and Wine Magazine, and the family that brings it to life:

Armed with 20 years of combined experience in the coffee industry, Matthew and Alessandra Delia-Lobo (known as Matt and Aless to their regulars) opened the doors to Royal Oak Coffee on Middlebury’s Seymour Street in May of 2019. The couple met in a Connecticut coffee shop back in 2011, so it only seems fitting that their lives together since then have revolved around a shared passion for coffee. 

Royal Oak Coffee at 30 Seymour Street in Middlebury
Royal Oak Coffee

Despite having traveled the world exploring coffee and cafe culture from Boston to Italy to Sweeden and the UK, the couple (thankfully) chose unlikely Middlebury as the home for their shop. Why Middlebury? The couple shares that over the course of six years visiting Matt’s mother, who lives here in Vermont’s shire town, they fell in love with the town, the pace, the gorgeous landscape, the kind people, and the sense of community. They decided it would be a great spot to settle, open up shop, and eventually start a family. 

Matt behind the counter 

At Royal Oak, Matt and Aless exclusively feature beans roasted in Winooski, VT, by Vivid Coffee Roasters. The couple prioritizes supply chain transparency and equity. They feel that the agricultural roots and vibrant local food scene in Addison County foster a community that understands the importance of supporting specific farmers and sustainable methods of production.

The smiling team at Royal Oak

Their cafe is artfully curated to create the kind of welcoming, unpretentious vibe that they feel is more in keeping with the rural Vermont scene. When the business initially launched, Matt and Aless were a team of two, handling all aspects of the business and serving each cup of coffee with a conversation and a smile. This gave them the opportunity to introduce themselves to the community and get to know their patrons. As the business and their own family grew, they recognized the need to hire a small team to support cafe operations, but they remain heavily involved with all aspects of the business. As for the name of their cafe, Aless shares that the Royal Oak moniker was a nod to her late father’s business — a reference to the tree where Charles II of England hid during a battle. 

According to Aless, “our whole shtick is to do things intentionally, consider everything and be nice. That’s it. We want people to feel like they’re welcome, that their order isn’t wrong or bad because they want decaf or something with sugar in it.” And clearly, they’re onto something. Despite the challenges of opening a new business in the midst of a pandemic, Matt and Aless have managed to keep their community blissfully caffeinated and elevate the coffee conversation along the way. We’re grateful that they’re here and thrilled to have them in the Co-op Connection lineup!

It’s Board Election Season Here at the Co-op!

It’s Board Election season here at the Co-op! Feeling confused about the election? Check out these answers to three of the most commonly asked questions:

I don’t know a lot about the Co-op…should I still vote?

Yes! You don’t need to have any prior experience or expertise to vote. If you’ve been inside the store, then you have the experience needed to vote.

We recommend you look for candidates who demonstrate a commitment to strategic leadership—leadership that supports the best interests of our Co-op as a whole. 

Why should I vote?

It’s very rare that you have the opportunity to make decisions about the leadership of a business, particularly one that plays such a significant role in our daily lives, such as a grocery store. When you vote, you have a direct impact on our community and local economy. 

We literally own our co-op grocery store together, as member-owners. Big-name grocery stores are owned by shareholders that do not live in our community–profits from these stores are extracted from communities. 

MNFC is different because we own the Co-op together–profits recirculate in our community, and all decisions are made locally by the Board of Directors and the Co-op Management Team.

Does my vote matter?

YES! Our elections are frequently very close races. Directors are often elected by a margin of only a few votes, and we occasionally have ties that result in run-off elections. Your vote really, truly matters!

Many thanks for your time! Please reach out if you have any questions. 

In Cooperation,

Your MNFC Board of Directors,

(802) 388-7276 ext 377