By Krissy Leonard, Community Relations Manager
2012 is a special year for Hunger Mountain Coop. In September we will turn 40, celebrating four decades of commitment to our community and local food producers. 2012 also holds a special significance for our co-op and cooperative businesses around the world, as the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed it the International Year of Cooperatives. The UN’s proclamation has created a concentrated, focused opportunity to share and celebrate the social and economic contributions of cooperative businesses, both globally and here in Vermont.
While our store is well known for providing our community with good, clean, wholesome food, we’re also a cooperative business. When you hear the word “co-op,” what springs to mind? For some people, “co-op” may be their local grocery store; for others it may be a housing community. Whatever your initial association, you may be surprised by the many types of co-ops around you. More than 800 million people around the world belong to cooperatives, at least 100 million people are employed by co-ops, and more often than you might realize, co-ops play a vital part of your everyday life.
Grocery stores, credit unions, housing co-ops, utility co-ops, health care cooperatives and food producer co-ops are just a few types of co-ops you have likely encountered, knowingly or unknowingly. The International Year of Cooperatives aims to share and celebrate the social and economic contributions of these cooperatives businesses, in which users can become owners of their co-op.
In communities across the country, retail food cooperatives have been leaders in providing consumers with high-quality local, organic and sustainably produced food. Food co-ops take pride in building relationships with area growers and suppliers, and supported the concept of “local” long before local was cool.
Hunger Mountain Coop began like most co-ops and organic things do: from the ground up. The Coop started as pre-order service in the late 60’s, when a group of neighbors joined together to buy natural foods that were hard to find elsewhere. When the orders became large enough, the members voted to open a storefront in Plainfield, which they called the Winooski Valley Coop. This co-op is still operated today as The Plainfield Co-op. In 1972, more and more members of the community had joined in and it became apparent that the store was too small for the needs of all its members, so a storefront was opened as a separate operation in Montpelier.
Today, Hunger Mountain Coop is supported by over 6,500 Member-Owners and employs over 130 Vermonters. Hunger Mountain Coop has enjoyed steady growth since 1972, doing over $18 million in sales last year. The Coop remains dedicated to its Mission of providing healthy and nutritious food to its Member-Owners and the surrounding community, and gives back thousands of dollars each year to local organizations, non-profits, schools and other groups.
Hunger Mountain Coop grew out of an expressed need in our community for good food. It is owned by the people who use it as a resource for food and information, and is governed by cooperative values and principles. Because of this, our co-op is a direct expression of the community that built and sustains it, rather than acting as a corporate venture where decisions are made based purely on profit. “Community approach to business is at the heart of cooperative philosophy, and this translates to a deep commitment to owners and shoppers. Social and environmental responsibility are more than just buzz words at food co-ops,” says Robynn Shrader, chief executive officer of NCGA, an organization comprised of food co-ops around the country.
Hunger Mountain Coop also works with a variety of cooperative groups including the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), the National Cooperative Grocers’ Association, as well as the National Cooperative Business Association. We also purchase food from a number of co-ops that have farms in Vermont, like Depp Root Organics and Organic Valley, and from worker-owned co-ops like Equal Exchange.
You don’t have to be an owner to shop at food co-ops, but ownership may make your shopping trip a little more meaningful. At food co-ops, fresh, delicious food is just the beginning. Nourish your family. Discover local foods. Connect with others and help build a strong community.
See you at the co-op!