By Pete Woltz, IFC Board President
The IFC is much more than another place to buy food. A while back Kelly and Angie Tagtow shared a request from a journal that was seeking essays that explored “the intersection of cooperatives with alternative food systems initiatives”. I was so moved by the request’s language on cooperative food systems that I read a portion at an IFC board meeting for a bit of pre-meeting inspiration.
The words hit a familiar note for me. Cooperative food systems were described as organizations populated by “food citizens” acting within “civic food networks”. Cooperative food systems, they went on to say, were distinguished from conventional cooperatives in that they:
- Reconnect farmers and consumers in more direct and meaningful ways
- Sell to local and regional markets through alternative networks
- Promote food production, distribution, and consumption processes that are environmentally sound or socially just.
As my involvement in the IFC has expanded over the years from producing products that meet IFC standards, to public speaking, to Board involvement, to volunteering on distribution day, I have come to feel a compelling sense of citizenship within this extraordinary local food community. More than just an intersection of consumers and food producers, I find the IFC to be a vibrant community of citizens accepting the responsibilities and enjoying the privileges that come with citizenship.
What are the responsibilities? For starters, an all-volunteer workforce of “food citizens” somehow manages to collect hundreds of local products every other Thursday and distribute them to lines of very patient consumers at four different sites. Thank you volunteers and patient consumers!
But responsibilities in a cooperative food system go beyond the sometimes overwhelming tasks of distribution. There are responsibilities our producer owners accept to offer wholesome foods produced with practices that protect our land, water, and wildlife. There are responsibilities to care for those who are less fortunate, which we do by supporting our EBT members with donations to cover their fees. Indeed, being responsible is a theme that runs through everything we do.
What about the privileges that come with citizenship in our local food system? Are you kidding – local greens in February!?!
I would also argue that this great privilege is also our responsibility. I encourage you as a coop citizen to buy products from our producers. April sales are well on the way to meeting budget projections. You can help us meet our goals and keep our community alive and healthy by loading your cart this next cycle with the most wonderful local Iowa products available anywhere. Please shop your Coop!