Miranda, with whom I’ve worked before making videos for her yoga and lifestyle “community group” Ahimsa, is a wonderfully positive and proactive young woman who tries to maintain a plastic free and environmentally friendly lifestyle, while also working on developing better communities through her activities at Ahimsa. Beyond running a yoga center, she organizes events such as Friday night potluck dinners, reading groups, conversation nights and so on. Last Sunday, I was lucky to attend a new event. Miranda, with some friends, has started a food co-op that will be taking place once a month.
What’s a food coop you ask? Well, in this case, Miranda and friends(sorry I don’t know their names), have contacted a food supplier and agreed on ordering bulk produce from them once a month. They have invited a large group of friends and Ahimsa participants to come together and bid on produce they would like to purchase from among a list of ingredients that are available from the supplier. Being a bulk supplier, certain restrictions exist that result in a need for careful organization. For example, kidney beans might only be available in large 50 pound bags, and thus would need a large group of people ordering various weights of the beans to fulfill the minimum order required for the purchase. And so, what will be happening once a month is that the co-op members will unite at Ahimsa, and bid on the produce they want for the following month while organizing themselves to make sure a minimum order is fulfilled. Following my earlier example, if 25 people want 2 pounds of kidney beans each, then the coop can proceed to order that product.
Not all produce is delivered in such large quantities and fulfilling the minimum requirements on Sunday, despite it being the first co-op meeting, was not too difficult. I ordered all kinds of grains, nuts, seeds, nut butters, beans, lentils, dates and other dried fruit. Also available were a variety of oils, such as sunflower oil and olive oil. Most of the produce is organic, and a lot of it is from local farms. The price difference between what you find in stores and what we were able to get through the co-op is staggering. Essentially, by organizing the coop, Miranda and the other organizers have cut out the middle man or woman, or store to be more exact…
It was organized simply: each of us given a number while someone went around the room asking each of us how much of a specific product we wanted. The amount was then inserted in a computer graph which calculated each number’s total purchase amount, the total of each ingredient bought, and so on. After going through each number, a total of the order was counted to make sure we could order the required amount, and if there were discrepancies, adjustments were made with people taking less or more than originally requested. In order to calculate this while making the orders, a projector was placed on one of the Ahimsa loft walls that detailed all the necessary information, such as the item name, cost per pound or kilo,amount ordered by a specific number and more.
I had originally been invited to take pictures of the event for the Ahimsa website, but ended up ordering a lot of food; perhaps too much… Nonetheless, the experience was fantastic, and I’m delighted to know someone who took the time to organize something like this. I’ll be saving money, meeting new people, and readjusting my eating to fit with what’s available locally. Soon, a fresh vegetable basket program will start with local farmers and when that happens, participants will be able to feed themselves almost entirely with local produce.