In remembering Earth Day this year (April 22), I have been reflecting on my shopping choices that affect not only my own health, but also those who produce the food I purchase. I discussed this with a friend, and she suggested I go to the local food co-op, Mississippi Market.
“This is one of my favorite places to go. I’m so excited to show you,” Betsy Schmitz ’17, Master’s of Arts in Theology, said as she led me into Mississippi Market, a co-op on the corner of East 7th and Maple Street. She wove through the produce, grabbing a few things for home, and continued to “the best part”—the bulk food section where you can weigh out the amount of food you need. “My fiancé is obsessed with making his own peanut butter; that’s over here. He’s a member of his co-op, so he gets money back and can help vote on decisions the co-op makes,” she continued.
I’ve hesitated to shop at co-ops because I thought it would be too expensive or that I had to be a member, but I was pleasantly surprised with how affordable and welcoming Mississippi Market was. As I left with organic veggies, almond butter made on site, and natural face toner, I knew my excessive shopping at Trader Joe’s would be taking a major cut in the future.
Co-ops are alternative grocery stores that customers can invest in, shop at (although you do not have to be a member), and lend their opinion to. Most of their produce is organic and they also strive to provide natural skincare and sell humanely raised organic meat. According to msmarket.coop, “cooperatives around the world look to seven internationally recognized principles to guide them. These are:
-Voluntary and open membership
-Democratic member control
-Member economic participation
-Autonomy and independence
-Education, training and information
-Cooperation among cooperatives
-Concern from community
“By adhering to these principles, we stay connected to our member-owners, to our community, and to the global cooperative movement . . . The ongoing success of ours and other co-ops has helped pave the way for better practices in how food is produced, distributed and marketed.”
There are various signs around the store that inform shoppers of the ethical impact of their purchases—signs that advertise “equal exchange” and “fair trade” products. The part I was most impressed by was the board for customer comments. Each customer comment was accompanied by a personal response from a Mississippi Market employee, either letting the customer know that they would be getting the product they suggested or explaining why they no longer carried it.
Are you looking to make more ethical food choices? Here are some local options:
Mississippi Market: http://msmarket.coop
Seward Community Co-op: http://seward.coop
Linden Hills Co-op: http://lindenhills.coop
Find your local farmers market here: http://minnesotagrown.com/member-directory/?categories=12148&perpage=25&pagenum=1