Everyone Welcome?

The Board Development Committee is one of your Monadnock Food Co-op board’s three subcommittees. This committee’s task is to ensure that your elected Board of Directors has the information and training needed to do their work. The current members of the Board Development Committee are Kathy Burke and Jay Smeltz. The committee prepares a yearly agenda of board development and education topics for board members and plans our annual board retreat.

Recently, five Monadnock Food Co-op board members, plus board and staff from thirteen other northeast co-ops, attended a CDS Consulting Co-op training workshop held in Keene entitled “Everyone Welcome?” Asking this as a question, rather than making it a statement, is important.

National food co-op leaders developed this workshop in response to a need for more understanding of the social power dynamics in our co-ops.

Around the country, cooperators have reported that people of color do not shop at food co-ops, and are wondering how we can “move the needle forward on racial diversity and inclusion” in our stores. This workshop was the first step to answer that question. The event we attended was one of two held simultaneously in the US.

This workshop was an eye-opener for me. I always felt comfortable because our co-op has an ends statement that makes me feel that we are moving forward. Our ends statement says we are “accessible” and that we welcome and connect the community. We will also offer education and training.  Shoppers are greeted in the store with a sign that says, “All are Welcome Here!” I thought we must be doing this right since we’ve been so successful these past five years.

Rather, this workshop helped me to realize that in our Monadnock community we can do much more. There are many people who still don’t shop here. Is it because the co-op is perceived, as some say, as elitist?  Do we offer food and products that only appeal to certain people?  Do we ignore food from cultures or countries different from ours? Are we not seeing the differences in our own community that can help make the co-op more welcoming and connecting? Can our co-op make all people, regardless of race or ethnicity or country of origin, feel truly welcome to shop here?

Your board will be looking at this important topic beginning this year. It will be included as an agenda item at our annual board retreat in March. Please email questions or thoughts to your co-op board at [email protected].