We are Co-ops: Filling community needs (and bellies)

| Business, Community, We Are Co-ops

By Madelyn Read

Welcome to our newest series “We Are Co-ops” in which we profile our diverse membership and demonstrate the innovation the flexible co-op model supports and enables! This week’s edition features the East End Food Co-op and the initiatives that they have implemented to support their membership and community through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The East End Food Co-op was established in 1975 and is Vancouver’s only member-owned grocery store. The BCCA had the chance to connect with General Manager Louis Campbell and learn about the Food Co-op’s recent community work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community Health, Safety, and Access to Food

The Food Co-op’s pandemic response began with ensuring the health, safety, and support of their staff. This included enhanced sanitation practices and measures to protect both staff and customers from disease transmission.

The Co-op has also taken measures to further support their employees by providing wage increases and grocery vouchers for all staff members. The Co-op did sadly lose some employees due to pandemic-related health concerns; however, they were able to reach out to other local co-operatives who were laying off staff and offer to hire those co-op workers. In this way, they were able to access the staff support they needed and provide work to recently unemployed co-operators.

In addition to these health, safety, and worker-support initiatives, the Food Co-op has formed two partnerships to support community members through this challenging time. One of these partnerships is with Shift Delivery Co-op (featured in our previous edition of We Are Co-ops).

Throughout the pandemic, the demand for grocery delivery has hugely increased. The Food Co-op has been receiving delivery requests since the beginning of the pandemic, but without much capacity to do the deliveries themselves, the Food Co-op connected with Shift. Louis explained that partnering with Shift was an obvious choice because of their cooperative structure and alignment of sustainability and community values. Together, they have been able to provide grocery delivery for up to 15 members a week, which is a feat for a small local grocery.

The Food Co-op is also supporting a new community initiative, the Emergency Food Home Delivery Program, which was started by the Grandview Woodland Food Connection and Britannia Community Centre. The Food Co-op sells groceries at-cost to the program and the Delivery Program makes these groceries accessible to community members in need.

For the month of June, the Food Co-op will be running a drive to raise money for the Emergency Food Home Delivery Program initiative, with a goal of raising $1000.

Lessons Learned

When asked what advice he could offer to other co-operators, Louis said, “listen to what your community wants, be proactive, and stick to your co-op values. If there’s a particular need your community needs filled, be adaptable and find a way to support those around you with the resources available.”

Keep in Touch

If you would like to keep up-to-date with the East End Food Co-op you can follow them on Instagram @eastendfoodcoopvan or Facebook, or visit their website. The Food Co-op has reintroduced Members Appreciation Day, the next of which will be on Saturday, June 13.