From the Bethlehem Food Co-op blog:
This morning, four co-operators piled into a car and headed down to the north-west edge of Philadelphia, where we were welcomed with open arms by the folks at Weavers Way Co-Op. Weavers Way is a seasoned co-op, established in the 1970s, that has expanded into the sort of co-op utopia we can dream about. They operate two full-service grocery stores, an educational center, four farms, a pet supply store and more!
I understand there will always be doubters, but places like Weavers Way show that when you understand the generative engine that fresh, good food can be, amazing things are possible. Keep it up, co-operators!
obviously the number of people who live nearby is going to be a huge factor in whether or not a corner grocery store can survive. If you want more food businesses, and all kinds of businesses, it’s all about upzoning upzoning upzoning.
Jon, thanks for the link.
The Bethlehem Food Co-op also shares this update:
February’s co-op meeting was hugely productive and well attended, despite a new time and venue. The group was delighted to welcome several new faces. The next general co-op meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, March 22 at 7pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lehigh Valley. Committee leaders will contact committee members to arrange meetings prior to that date. (continue reading)
Many, many thanks to Cathy Frankenberg and Jon Geeting for leading our discussion about food deserts and co-ops last week. We had a great turnout and the time together was enlightening and generative. I encourage you to follow Cathy’s work on the Bethlehem Food Co-op here and Jon’s political commentary and views on the changing urban landscape of Allentown here. I’m looking forward to inviting both of these fine panelists and community advocates back to Beerituality on a regular basis.
One thing that really struck me from an economic/political standpoint of the discussion was the issue of market failure in Bethlehem. If you’re of a mind to be skeptical of co-op groceries because you think the market is efficient, you have to ask yourselves why the invisible hand hasn’t planted very many grocery stores in these Bethlehem neighborhoods. Further, if market-driven models have tried and failed to thrive in these settings, you may wonder why a co-op should be any different. To me, activism, intentionality, and what I’ll call generative consensus add real value to an enterprise like this. Members of a co-op are committed to making it work for reasons other than profit. We’re talking about a system conceived, operated, maintained, and patronized by a group of dedicated people who have a very different understanding of the role food has in creating healthy communities. They have broader understandings about issues of access. The only shareholders they answer to are each other and the community members who will have better access to better food because a co-op is coming to town. If you don’t think there is real community interest in making the Bethlehem initiative work, visit their website. If you don’t think a co-op can work, consider the thousands that are thriving all across the country under a huge diversity of contexts and conditions.
And if you think the market really is the most efficient way to bring the most healthful food to the most people, consider this video from CNN Headline News anchor Jane Velez-Mitchell. To borrow a line from Uncle Buck, “She’s cookin’ our garbage!”
From where I sit, the mere possibility of freeganism proves the market’s inefficiency. Maybe, just maybe, when it comes to things like food and shelter, we’re done ignoring the fact that a profit-driven market system can’t be expected to actually take care of people. Because that, you know, is our job.
Political journalist/blogger Jon Geeting has been added to our food desert panel this Thursday night! Jon is the editor of the Keystone Politics blog, a columnist for Patch, and writes about politics, economics, and land use topics at jongeeting.net. Jon joins sustainability expert Cathy Frankenberg, one of the founding leaders of the Bethlehem Grocery Co-op, for what is sure to be a compelling evening!
What’s a food desert? A food is any area in the industrialized world where healthful, affordable food is difficult to obtain. According to the USDA, “more than 23 million people in America live in food deserts – urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. This lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related illness, such as diabetes and heart disease.
The Departments of Agriculture, Treasury, and Health and Human Services are bringing together resources and expertise to support the development of sustainable projects and strategies to increase access to healthy, affordable foods and eliminate food deserts.”
The USDA has identified food desert areas here in the Lehigh Valley. Visit that Department’s Food Desert Locator here.
We’re very excited to announce that musician John Hardt will be joining us for an evening of music and conversation on Thursday, January 19 at 7PM in the High Gravity lounge.
A graduate of Mars Hill Graduate School, John is the Community Arts Partner at the Barn and is an accomplished songwriter, performer and touring and session musician. In addition to his own work, John’s talents have been featured on releases by Sufjan Stevens’ Ashtmatic Kitty label. Currently living in Bethlehem, John is the creative convener of broken liturgy: church undone events in the Lehigh Valley.
Some of John’s work: