amanda warren

How Can I Talk to the Board?

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

Have you ever wondered how to communicate with the Board of Directors, and why you would contact the Board? Meaningful conversation between community members and their elected representatives at the Co-op is one of the many reasons the cooperative business model is unique and powerful. However, with over 6,000 Member-Owners, it can be confusing to know how to start a conversation, or where to turn with a question, concern, or feedback about the Co-op. 


It may be helpful to understand some unique features of how MNFC works. The Board uses a model of governance in which the Board guides the fundamental direction of the Co-op by creating policies that set the purpose (the Ends) of the Co-op. The Board is also responsible for creating and monitoring policies that oversee the General Manager’s work. The General Manager is directly accountable to the Board for all of these policies, which are monitored year round according to a schedule; however, the policies are broad enough to allow the General Manager and Staff the greatest possible operational freedom to achieve the purpose set by the Board. Board policies are available on our website


Here are some ways to bring any kinds of questions, concerns, or feedback to the Board:

  • Email: You can email us at This email address is checked regularly, and exclusively by Board members, typically Board President, Amanda Warren. 
  • Phone: You can call us at (802) 388-7276 ext 377. This phone number is exclusively answered by Board members, again, typically the Board President, Amanda. 
  • Open Board Meetings: All Member-Owners are welcome to attend monthly Board meetings, which are usually held on the 3rd Wednesday of each month from 6-8pm. The schedule is posted on the website. The first five minutes are always reserved for “Member-Owner Business,” and then Member-Owners are welcome to attend the rest of the meeting to observe the Board’s work. Meeting agendas are available  at the customer service desk by register 6, and are published the week preceding the meeting. If you plan to attend, please email the Board ahead of time, so we know to expect you Our next meeting is on December 20, 2023.
  • Talk to a Board Member: You are always welcome to talk to any Board member and share your thoughts. Board members will then bring your questions to the Board as a whole. You can see who is on the Board by visiting our website. The Board takes all feedback seriously. You might wonder: who can talk to the Board of Directors? Anyone! Anyone who has a question, concern, or feedback about the Co-op can bring it to the Board–you don’t have to be a Member-Owner. 
  • Run for the Board: If you’d like to get even more involved, Board elections happen every May. Applications are due mid-March of each year. For more information, visit the website, or get in touch with the Board using any of the methods listed above. 


If you’d like to learn more, or read any of our Board meeting minutes, you can visit our website. We look forward to hearing from you. 


In cooperation,

Amanda Warren (she/her) on behalf of the MNFC Board of Directors, (802) 388-7276 ext 377

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

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

Between Two Ends

“98% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than animal milk mozzarella!” boasts the advertisements for a new variety of vegan cheese I was recently excited to try. A product that is energy efficient, meets my dietary needs (gluten and dairy free), and tastes delicious? A win-win situation! But as I add it to my basket, I always feel conflicted. This cashew-based cheese is certainly not local. What is the true environmental and social impact of this product that is not boasted on the label? 

So what is a Co-op shopper to do? The truth is, there is no one way to eat. We all have to make informed compromises every time we fill our shopping carts. 

Sometimes I feel like there’s nothing left to eat that doesn’t conflict with at least one of my environmental, social, or dietary criteria. I recognize that statement isn’t true–choosing my foods through these criteria is something I’m able to do because I have the privilege of food security. And yet still, as a conscious consumer who also has dietary restrictions, I am often perplexed by the balancing act of feeding my family. The paradox of choice–a malady of the privileged–sneaks into my consciousness each time I grocery shop. 

People have been telling me how to eat for most of my life. Since I was diagnosed with a digestive disease at the age of 10, I’ve had people tell me everything from: “What you eat has no impact on your condition,” to people telling me to eat a highly limited diet. At different points, I’ve been told not to eat: dairy, gluten, all grains, sugar, peanuts, chocolate, onions, garlic, all raw vegetables, tropical fruit, and more. I’ve also had people tell me I could cure my condition without western medicine if I simply ate: beans at every meal and mostly cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage. Or if I just ate a lot of coconut oil. The list goes on. It’s exhausting. 

But my choices about what I eat go beyond myself. I believe that grocery shopping can be a radical act. I can use my dollars to support businesses–such as our Co-op–that make a difference in the world as a mission-based retail organization. 

I am grateful that the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op strives to meet a variety of people’s needs, wants, and perceptions of the world. The Co-op’s job is to provide a range of foods that meet the organization’s buying criteria, and also serve the Co-op’s Mission and Ends statement. Within that framework, the rest is up to us as shoppers to make our informed compromises–all of which are unique from other shoppers. 

To be honest, I’ve continued to buy the vegan cheese even though in some ways it represents a personal tension for me, and a tension between two of the Co-op’s Ends: “vibrant local economy” and “environmentally sustainable and energy efficient practices.” I’m curious: how do you, as member-owners, navigate this tightrope? Is there one End that resonates with you more deeply than another and drives your decisions? I’d love to know:

Amanda Warren is our Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board President

In Memory of Louise Vojtisek, a Reminder to Pay with a Co-op Gift Card!

It is with an immensely heavy heart that I share the news that Louise Vojtisek, MNFC member-owner for 20 years, and Board member for 10 years passed away this winter. 

Louise was nothing short of essential and inspirational in her many years on the board. Louise was always first to volunteer for any task or committee, and she served as board secretary for many years. In her last term, Louise was a founding member of our JEDI Committee (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) and she went above and beyond to extend this work through a monthly meeting connecting with representatives from other Co-ops. 

Personally, although I only had the privilege of knowing her for six years, she made a big impact. I will never forget nervously arriving at the annual meeting after being elected for my first term, and immediately being swooped up into Louise’s warmth. “I voted for you!” she said as she marched up to me and brought me into the fold. Just a year later, after my first child was born, Louise knew that I had no family close by or formal childcare, and she offered to help out. Louise will always be remembered by my family because she was the first person I ever left my first baby with as I rushed off for a work meeting. 

Passionate doesn’t adequately describe her commitment to our Co-op and local agricultural community. One of her most well-known contributions was the fervor with which she spoke about credit card fees. Outraged that over $200,000 leave our local economy yearly because of credit card fees at the Co-op, she wrote numerous articles, spoke at the annual meeting, and told everyone at her favorite Otter Creek Yoga class about the many benefits of using an MNFC gift card in lieu of a credit card. Because of this passion, we are re-running one of Louise’s articles in her honor. I know that I will never look at a Co-op gift card without remembering Louise Vojtisek.

– Amanda Warren, MNFC Board President.

From Louise’ original blogpost in 2021:

When you purchase food at the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op (MNFC), you support the hundreds of local producers who live in our area, and you are keeping the money in local circulation. And, as a member-owner, you own shares in this store and will receive an annual patronage refund based on your purchase history! The shares you hold represent your whole-hearted commitment to community-produced and distributed healthy foods.  

Did you know you can increase another aspect of “keeping it local” by simply adjusting how you pay at checkout? In past articles I’ve written to make folks aware of this topic, I noted that MNFC paid more than $100,000, then $150,000, and then the number was close to $200,000 in annual credit card fees! The fees have been increasing each year. Last year in 2020, we paid $272,161 in credit card fees! Consider that this startling amount of money is extracted from our local community and flows to out-of-state banks. Think about what could be done locally with these funds, either through increased community support, or improvements in customer services. While I certainly do not want to “guilt” anyone for using a credit card, there are options to consider for avoiding those fees. The use of checks or cash is one possibility, but this is not always convenient.

The easiest way to avoid the fees and using up checks or having cash on hand is to use an MNFC Gift Card for all of your Co-op purchases. This card can be obtained from any cashier, and you decide how much money you want on the card. Simply write a check for that amount, then use the gift card every time you shop. The card acts like a credit card with your money on it, but there are no fees. It is another form of “cash” and thus should be kept in a secure place. There is a number associated with each card that can be found on the back. I keep a photo of the id number of my card on my phone so it is always handy and secure. If you lose the card, the card can be deactivated if you have the number, and a cashier can look up your balance and apply it to a new card.  The gift card works just like a credit card or check or cash and is linked to your coop account.  The balance of the card shows up at the bottom of each receipt every time you make a  purchase so you can keep track. When the balance runs low, simply write another check or use cash to load the same card with more money! I tend to reload each month, and it keeps me on my food budget! I remind you that writing a check or using cash to add money to the card is the way to go; if you use a debit or credit card, it defeats the purpose.

There are several advantages to this process:

  • You can budget what you believe is reasonable for you to spend at the Co-op, say for a month’s time, and keep track of your spending.
  • Going through the checkout line is extremely quick and efficient. The cashier scans your card, you get a receipt, and you’re done! Nothing to sign, no check to write, no numbers to punch in, no waiting for change. The cashiers like the ease of this process and you’re apt to get some unsolicited positive regard from them.
  • During the surge of COVID, using the gift card minimizes contact involved with using common pens, dealing with the credit card terminal, and handling cash.
  • Finally, remember that an MNFC gift card is a wonderful way to give anyone a present, for any occasion. An MNFC gift card can encourage someone new to the Co-op to make their first visit and can introduce long time customers to this very efficient way of paying for purchases.
  • Most importantly, using a Coop gift card this way eliminates the credit and debit card fees the Co-op has to pay to banks and financial. Don’t forget, debit cards have fees as well!

Once you try it, you’ll wonder why you have not done this all along. It is such a quick and convenient way to pay for your groceries, and keep your dollars local – it is truly a win-win. This is how I have paid for my MNFC shopping for the last five years, and I intend to for the next five years and more! It’s a great intention to set for the rest of 2021, I encourage you to give it a go!  I think you’ll love it!

Louise Vojtisek was a long-time Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member.  She will be missed.