As the Movement for Black Lives has taken hold across our country, no doubt many of you, like me, have been reflecting on how we are in many ways complicit in perpetuating racism and white supremacy and are learning what we can do to uproot these systems. Your board is doing this work too, focusing on both educating ourselves and developing policies that focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This work is meant to help us track the DEI work we are currently doing, and challenge us to continue to do more and better for our Co-op.
I am proud of the work that the Co-op has been doing in this area. One example is the work our Marketing, Education & Membership (MEM) team has been doing to support local farmworkers. In collaboration with the Open Door Clinic (ODC), the MEM team was able to visit with farmworkers at five area farms. While the ODC provided flu shots, our team signed farmworkers up for the Food For All Program. The Food For All Program provides all income-eligible individuals and families in Addison County and beyond free membership to the Co-op and a 10% discount. This program is one of the ways we are meeting our goal of supporting the health and well-being of our whole community. In addition to this direct outreach, the Co-op has also been collaborating with the ODC to develop a food pre-order program for farmworkers. This program will provide an easy way for farmworkers to order cases of select products and receive the 15% case discount on top of their 10% Food for All program discount! The Co-op and ODC were excited to launch a pilot of this new offering in the spring but unfortunately had to hold off on the start due to the COVID pandemic.
An important part of dismantling racist systems is a better understanding of historical and ongoing racial inequalities. In the next six months, I, along with several of my fellow board members, am participating in the Abolitionists Challenge. This program is designed specifically for people involved in the cooperative movement to understand how we can commit to ending white supremacy in both our cooperatives and the larger society. I am excited to be learning alongside others in the Co-op sector from across the country and am hopeful we’ll be bringing back new ideas for how we can continue to push ourselves to do better here in Middlebury, and across Vermont as well.
While we have made some steps like those I’ve listed above, as I dive deeper into this learning, I am understanding that this is work we must continue to do every day, month in and month out, for decades to come. As we continue to listen and learn about the needs of our community and understand how we can be increasingly a part of dismantling the systems of oppression in our country, I am hoping you’ll join us on this journey. If you have thoughts or ideas of things our Co-op can do in this vein, please share them with us. Please feel free to email the Co-op Board or Co-op Marketing, Education, and Membership staff with your ideas and reflections.
Erin Buckwalter is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member