Tacoma Food Co-op: bruised but not broken

Hi guys! Remember me? Life has been kind of crazy from March on and I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like to. The past three weeks went into nutso overdrive and thus blogging has taken a back seat to other life happenings. Good changes have been afoot, though, and things are slowing down. I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things here soon.

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In case you haven’t heard the news by now, on May 31, a car drove into the Tacoma Food Co-op. Four customers were injured and taken to the hospital, in addition to employees getting knocked around. The car drove straight through the building’s glass doors and knocked into both checkout lanes/cash registers. The driver had passed out, and we’re still not sure why yet.

Thankfully, all of the individuals were released from the hospital the same night with only bumps and bruising.

I found out about the accident through Facebook, when a friend posted a photo. I immediately emailed a fellow board member, talked with her as she was arriving, then decided I needed to head over, too.

Interior after the accident. You can see that both registers/lanes were knocked from their original locations by the car.

When I arrived, many members from the community were there in solidarity/support. Some were taking photos/video, KIRO, KOMO and KING5 were on the scene with video cameras. Many more came by to ask if we needed help with anything. I must’ve been stoned faced when I walked on the scene, as I’d been in the store just about an hour before this happened. Though shocked and rattled, many of us got to work immediately to get the co-op cleaned up and to prep covers for the windows/doors that were knocked out.

So much glass.

As the co-op hasn’t even been open a year yet and is still very much in “startup mode,” this was a bit of a blow. Though we’ve been doing well financially thus far, any setback in the first year is rough. Thankfully, the co-op’s board, general manager Henri and employees are a strong-willed, determined bunch, and rather than worry about what was going to happen the next day, we all kept reminding each other that things could’ve been worse – a lot worse. We were all just happy that everyone came out of it okay.

I stayed for a few hours and some of the people who helped put the temporary plywood door up were at the co-op ’til 1 a.m. the next day.  A group of local bicyclists were out in front of the Red Hot nearby on the evening of the accident attending the last event of Bike Month. Henri mentioned many times that had bike folk from the Red Hot not yelled out “car, car!” he would not have known that there was a car approaching at 35 mph that wasn’t going to stop.

Co-ops are by definition voluntary organization composed of a group of people and formed for their mutual benefit. The co-op provides many in the community with healthy food and products. Though we’ve been around for only a short while, I’m amazed at how many loyal customers, members and fans have come about as a result of the store existing.

Our co-op’s bruised, but it’s far from being broken. Due in part to the amazing, sheer support, concern and help from the community, we’ve proven that it would take a lot more than this to take us down. This is one of the many reasons why I’m so thankful to be a part of this organization.

Functioning register success.

If you haven’t been to the store since the accident, know that we were up and running the next day at 8 a.m. Both registers are functioning, our plywood door will soon be replaced with an actual one, and all of your favorite items are still available. Employees and Henri appreciate all the concern, but more than anything they (and the board) appreciate your support.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

If you subscribe to the Tacoma Food Co-op‘s monthly newsletter, you may have seen this pop up in your email yesterday:

I wrote a short little piece about some of my favorite TFC food products, how it’s easier than you may think to be vegan and about the ways the co-op can help you if you’re considering transitioning to the diet.

In addition to the article, I also created a recipe for said newsletter. I am more of an eat-and-review type of food blogger rather than the recipe writer kind, but sometimes creativity strikes. Or, I realize I’ve got some recipes I created and have been making for years and remember that I should share them with you all. This recipe for Mediterranean Quinoa Salad pertains to the latter.

Quinoa salads (or any grain-based salad, really) are great because they are a nice change from the traditional all-greens based salad, they’re heartier, and they’re also very customizable and you can make one with whatever you have on hand. I used to make a plainer version of this for potlucks/gatherings, but last week I was feeling the nicer weather and leaning towards more Mediterranean flavors and ingredients. I think it turned out pretty well! I’ll include the newsletter copy for those who aren’t signed up yet, (and if you’re local, you should be! Sign up here).

With spring in full gear and summer coming soon, we tend to focus more on lighter, nutrient-rich meals that call for less prep, and less reliance on our ovens. This Mediterranean-inspired recipe makes use of quinoa, a nutty Incan protein-filled grain that is a great addition to salads. When combined with beans, spicy Italian parsley, red onions and a rich tahini dressing, it makes a colorful main dish or a hearty side.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Yields 4-8 servings, depending upon whether served as a side or main dish. Gluten-free and vegan.

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¼ bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped (The original recipe called for ½ bunch, but that was a typo! If you like spicy, you can use the original amount.)
½ cup red onion, diced
2 cups baby spinach, rinsed
Grape tomatoes
Kalamata olives

Tahini dressing:

Zest and juice of one large lemon
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons warm water
¼-½ teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Rinse the quinoa. In saucepan, combine quinoa and water and cook over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, which should take 15 minutes.

Prepare the dressing while the quinoa cooks. Whisk together the lemon zest and juice, garlic, tahini, olive oil, water and salt. This might take a few minutes if your tahini was refrigerated.

Toss the quinoa, beans, parsley, red onion, and dressing. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Serve garnished with tomatoes, olives and a bit more parsley.

Enjoy!

The TFC also has their “Spring Into the Co-op” campaign happening now. Check out the website or Facebook page for more info on discounts, prizes and more goodies that you can receive by visiting the co-op five times by May 31.

Do you have any grain-based salads that you love to make during spring and summer? And do you have any fun plans for our 70-80 degree weather this weekend? Do tell!

 

 

 

Thanksgiving 2011

This Thanksgiving, (or Thanksliving, Tofurky Day, or any other name you prefer!) was my 6th vegan celebration, and I believe it was the best one yet. The boy and I decided to be adult-like and do our own celebration sans family/friends, and it was a really nice feeling to not have to worry about messing up the gravy or pleasing the omnivores.

The main Thanksgiving dish is always the one that I dread and contemplate much longer than any part of the meal. My first year as a vegan, I went the stereotypical route with my first Tofurky Roast that I took to my grandma’s for our annual dinner at her house. I made the roast, vegan mashed potatoes and brought a vegan pie, and the family thankfully veganized some of the vegetable sides. My grandma surprisingly LOVED the Tofurky, which only reaffirmed how much she rules.

When in doubt, Tofurky it up. (Courtesy Tofurky.com).

The next year I made a lentil loaf (it was just fine), and the year after it was a chickpea and vegetable filling stuffed puffed pastry dish (total disaster – and was the catalyst of my current puff pastry fears). The next holiday it was a tofu and veggie quiche type dish made by the bf’s mom (delicious!) and last year’s plans were totally derailed due to Mother Nature killing electricity in a county nearby, so we ran out day of for a, (wait for it…) Tofurky roast again. And it was delicious again! But this year, I knew I wanted to try something else, but also didn’t want to worry too much about the main as I knew I was going to go all out in prepping the dessert.

Over in the Twitterverse, I saw @Tofu_Mom – aka Marti or the author or Vegan Food; More Than Tofu and Sprouts discussing a new product I’d never heard of: the Field Roast Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute. It just sounds so fancy, right?

Courtesy: FieldRoast.com

It’s essentially a Field Roast sausage, hazelnut, cranberry and ginger stuffing filled loaf wrapped in flaky, (impeccably executed) puff pastry. Once she described it, I knew I had to try it. And the next day, my wish was granted: Henri, the General Manager of the Tacoma Food Co-op sent me an email that consisted of a picture of the box and said, “we have these in the store now! And they’re yummy!” So I naturally ran over and picked one up.

Apologies for the lighting making it appear not cooked, but it was indeed. We served ours with roasted carrots, onions and butternut squash, along with ample gravy for smothering.

Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes in my book. Here they are, being lovingly mashed and seasoned with Earth Balance and fresh rosemary and thyme.

The ubiquitous (at least on this blog), roasted Brussels. In recent years I’ve decided that Thanksgiving can’t happen without them, too.

As I mentioned before, this year I knew I was going to get my hands dirty with dessert, and dirty them up I did. I busted out my brand new copy of Vegan Pie In The Sky and when I saw the Sweet Potato Brazil Nut Crunch Pie recipe, I knew it’d be perfect for our T-day dinner. We love sweet potatoes and Brazil nuts, so clearly this was a win-win. I was a little worried as I hadn’t made a pie crust from scratch in years, but despite not being perfect looking, it still tasted phenomenal. Here it is after the first round in the over, pre-topping:

And here’s the after. The flavor of this pie is sublime, as it combines creamy cool sweet potatoes with island-inspired lime, coconut milk, rum and brown sugar with warm and rich Brazil nuts. You can’t taste it, but this recipe was a huge hit. If you have the book, I highly suggest making it soon.

And here’s the whole gang, in all their Instagrammed glory. From top going clockwise: The White Bean and Kale recipe from Yellow Rose Recipes, (a tradition of ours since last year – I could fill a plate with it), mashed potatoes and gravy, Field Roast slice, roasted veggies, Brussels and lazy woman’s stuffing.

And last but not least, the pie money shot. When paired with Rushmore on Blu-ray (pushes glasses back) , it was the perfect ending to a lovely Thanksgiving. And pie was enjoyed for many, many days to follow.

 Hope all of you had wonderful Thanksgivings! Did you try a new vegan recipe this year that was a standout on your holiday table?

The Top 5 Vegan-Friendly Grocery Stores in Tacoma

I’ve been wanting to write this post since I started this blog. And now, with Vegan MoFo forcing me to write every (week)day, I’ve decided it’s about time. Why do I want to share my favorite spots to find vegan food and personal care items, you may ask? Well, for starters, I feel that a lot of people believe that you can’t find a lot of basic vegan items in Tacoma and that you have to trek all the way up to Seattle. I hear this all the time. No, people! Give the City of Destiny some credit!

Secondly, things have gotten SO MUCH BETTER in recent years. Lightyears better, meaning there’s now more than two stores that can help you find that one pesky ingredient that you need for the pie that you need to bring to a potluck, or for cheap locally-made tofu or vegan snacks for when you’re veg friends and family come into town.

Without further ado, I give you my Top 5 vegan-friendly grocery stores in Tacoma, WA:

Photo credit: metropolitan-market.com.

5) Metropolitan Market – Nestled in the cute, almost Stepford-esque neighborhood we call the Proctor District, Metropolitan Market is part of a Northwest chain that offers up locally-grown and made goods with your standard mainstream brands mixed in. It’s a little pricier than Safeway across the street (and many other local grocery stores), but it’s a great place to grab a few specialty items every once in a while. My favorite things to purchase at Met Market are: produce (because their selection is astounding), a bowl of soup and multigrain roll on a cold day, random vegan meat analogues, (I usually run here when I’m in the neighborhood and realize I need seitan or tempeh, etc.) and wine. Yep, they have one of the best wine selections I’ve seen in town and it’s perfect for grabbing something before a party or get-together. Rows and rows of fermented grape bottled bliss.

Photo credit: www.weeklyvolcano.com.

4) Trader Joe’s – This one should surprise no one. Though it’s technically located in University Place, it’s the closest one we have and thus counts as Tacoma in my book. We make the trip every two weeks for most of our oft-used staples: olive oil, vinegars, breads, frozen fruits and veggies, canned beans, etc. I’ve been a fan of the company since I was a college student in Southern California, and it’s only gotten better for vegans over the years. They clearly mark which of their own brand’s products are vegan, are amping up pre-made salads and frozen meals (if you’re into that sorta thing) that are vegan-friendly and are one of my favorite places to buy dark chocolate and Brussels sprouts. Aside from the way too much packaging and plastic wrap they use, due to the facts that it’s affordable and well-stocked, you can’t go wrong with a TJ’s trip.

This was a good day.

3) Fred Meyer – This one may surprise some, but not those who are avid FM shoppers. We didn’t have Fred Meyer in Southern California, so moving to the Northwest helped me get acquainted very quickly. Though the company sells products from lots of not so vegan-friendly companies, they also have one of the best organic and natural foods sections I’ve come across in the state. This goes for most locations, but the 19th Street store is definitely my favorite. The first time I saw Daiya cheese in Washington state (photo above), was at this Fred Meyer. I wasn’t expecting this, but it was awesome. Great gluten-free products, focus on organics, bulk bins and spices, tofu/tempeh/frozen meals, and so many well-priced toiletry items all at a place where you can also get batteries and birthday cards later at night, Fred Meyer is pretty great.

Photo credit: activerain.com

2) Marlene’s Market and Deli – Though they’re sometimes slow to get new vegan items that everyone is dying to try, Marlene’s has a few other grocery stores beat due to their insane bulk sections, kombucha selection, deli with great vegan sandwiches, juices, soups and baked goods, the best salad bar in the city and almost every vegan personal care item you could ever dream of. Their prices are a bit higher than most so I don’t do full-on grocery trips here, but rather come in when I need a specialty item (chia or hemp seeds, supplements or vegan Worcestershire sauce), a green juice after a workout or want to take in their amazing salad bar during my lunch break. It’s true guys, I love Marlene’s.

1) Tacoma Food Co-op - Clearly, I am biased with this being my number one pick. I’d been waiting for the co-op to open since I moved to Tacoma, and now it’s here. I volunteer there and am constantly sharing news about what’s happening with them, but it’s all because I have faith in the fact that Tacoma’s first co-op has the potential to be a great one.

As they just opened and General Manager Henri Parren is eager to please all of his customers (members or not), the co-op welcomes suggestions for items they may not have in stock, or may not have thought to get. They’ve even got a handy, dandy online suggestion box where you can put in your requests without even getting out of your pajamas! Magic. Suggestions aside, TFC has had a great selection of vegan items in store since day one. They have pretty much every Field Roast product you could ever want, the best organic produce at a grocery store in the city at excellent prices, (partially because many farmers market vendors sell their produce here), every Daiya flavor (including Pepperjack) locally-made Tacoma Tofu and Small Planet Tofu spreads, Amy’s meals and Sunshine burgers, coconut, hemp, oat and more traditional vegan milks and they’re adding more items everyday. Members and individuals who shop at the co-op are only going to help it evolve and grow over the years, so I suggest you make it over there soon, and add it to your regular arsenal of grocery stores you support. The co-op works with a great deal of local companies, cooks and farmers, so you can leave the store with pride, knowing that more of your dollars are staying in our community.

What’s your favorite, vegan-friendly grocery store to shop at in your town? And if you’re in Tacoma, which stores would be in your top 5?

Tacoma Food Co-op is open!

While I was out of town during the last weekend in August for the Con, the Tacoma Food Co-op opened its doors to the public. This business has been in the works for five years and now it finally stands in its brick and mortar form. Though I wasn’t physically in Tacoma on Aug. 26, I still beamed with a little more pride that day. Our co-op’s open!

I stopped by last week to check out the store, meet General Manager Henri Parren and ask him a few questions about the co-op and what kind of offerings local vegans could look forward to.

Before I began to ask my questions, Parren told me a little about his twin sister who still lives in his home country, Holland.

“She’s vegan. Well, nearly vegan,” Parren laughs. “She’s a strict vegetarian. Like her, I have a strong connection to animals.”

If you haven’t met him yet, Parren has a warm and welcoming way about him, and the fact that he shared this story with me was genuinely endearing. It set the tone for the rest of the interview, and for the way I viewed the spirit of the co-op as I walked through the aisles.

Though not vegan himself, Parren has worked for many notable grocery companies in Washington state the past and thus is very familiar with the brands that vegetarians love. In the freezer section, all kinds of vegan meals – from Amy’s pizzas, to burgers to breakfast items, Sunshine and many other veggie burgers and great organic veggies and fruits – all line the shelves. Bulk bins are teeming with grains, (including Bob’s Red Mill), bottles of nooch and Bragg’s are available, chia seeds are in the spice bulk section and soy yogurt and many various milk alternatives are available, too. Almost every product made by Seattle vegan grain meat company Field Roast is available, which was an intentional move on the general manager’s part.

“I’ve worked with the owner of Field Roast, (David Lee) before, and I know all about it. I knew I wanted to have his products here,” Parren stated. Check out my photos of a few other vegan items and products I scouted on my visit:

Not just food! The co-op’s stocked with natural personal care, cleaning, pet and other health-related products. The shelves are still filling up, but I think the options available are an excellent start.

So much local, sweet, fresh produce, (okay yeah, minus the pineapples and avocados).

Does looking at all these vegetables make anyone else feel giddy?

Yes, all three Daiya varieties are available, (I’ve got the Pepperjack in my fridge to prove it).

Gluten-free items abound!

Adorable new grocery bags are in, too. A convenient way to show TFC pride and be good to the environment at the same time.

Two of Tacoma’s premier coffee roasters are represented and available in the co-op, Valhalla and Bluebeard. Coffee’s available by the pound in whole beans or you can grind it in store. Many Mad Hat Tea varieties are also available.

Parren seemed to have a solid basis of essential vegan items in mind, but I wondered if they’d gotten many requests for items before opening.

“Yes, we did get many on Facebook,” Parred affirmed. “We definitely had requests for organic produce and most vegan requests focused also on fresh and local, such as coffee, baked goods and bulk items.”

Though the co-op doesn’t have every item in that a vegan (or anyone else) could think of, Parren and the co-op welcome requests. During the interview, he showed me a stack of items that had just come in as a result of individuals asking for them. So if you can’t find an item you’re looking for, let them know. Parren and co. want to stock the shelves with items they know the community wants. More bulk items and a deli are two things that have been requested the most and that are in the works.

When asked how the reception had been to the co-op thus far after its “soft” opening, Parren didn’t hesitate to say that it’s been all positive.

“It seems that everyone is all about the organic veggies!” Parren exclaimed, with a smile. “With vegans, they are real, conscientious, fun and interesting people. They’ve seen things, heard things and are fun to socialize with. And they definitely aren’t afraid to speak their mind and voice their concerns!” You’ve got that right, Henri. And I for one appreciate shopping at a grocery store where the general manager actually knows what “vegan” means, and respects the lifestyle.

Whether you’ve stopped by the co-op multiple times since it opened (guilty) or you still haven’t made it over yet, all are invited to the Co-op’s official grand opening celebration, taking place this Saturday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. There will be a toast and opening remarks at that time, and it’ll be a great opportunity to meet Parren, the TFC board, fellow member-owners and even join the co-op if you were still holding out. If you haven’t fully realized all the reasons why you should be a member by now, maybe going to the storefront and feeling the sense of community and ownership that emanates throughout will help you understand exactly what we’re all so jazzed about.

Grand opening info:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 10, (09/10/11!)

Time: 2 p.m.-?

Location: 3002 6th Ave.

Tacoma Food Co-op general info:

Address: 3002 6th Ave.

Email: info@tacomafoodcoop.com (this is the co-op’s preferred method of contact)

Phone: (253) 627-3344

Regular hours: Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Tuesday to-do: TFC’s Food and Drink Affair

If your plans for tomorrow evening consist of, well, the usual, I have an event that will take you off the couch, into some great local businesses, get you mingling with other members of your community and supporting an excellent cause.

The Tacoma Food Co-Op will be hosting TFC Food & Drink Affair this evening from 6-9 p.m. at Bluebeard Coffee and Cork! Wine Bar. This event is open to all and not just members, so come out and bring your friends. The event is all ages as well, and there’s a 21 and over section that will be near the bar inside Cork!

Included in the array of events for this special evening are: a coffee tasting (Bluebeard is staying open late specifically for this event), wine at happy hour prices, many local vendors that will sell their products at Tacoma Food Co-op will attend with tasty treats for sampling, (TFC informed me there will be vegan treats at the event) and more. The Co-Op will receive 10% of Cork’s sales for the night, which is an excellent incentive to come out, enjoy some delightful wine, chat with friends old and new and meet your fellow co-op owners.

Here’s a sampling of the vendors that will be in attendance:
- Tofu Phil from Vashon Island will sample his Small Planet Tofu and dips. Island Spring Tofu from Vashon Island will be there, too
- Samantha from Tacoma will have samples from the Pip & Lola’s Soap collection
- Intrigue Chocolates from Pioneer Square will be armed with organic chocolate truffles
- Tobin from Tacoma will relax you with free Mad Hat Tea tastings
- Neal from Essential Baking will bring some of their freshly baked, artisan breads
- Sevierly Good Gluten Free Baking Mixes
- Tacoma Mountain Muesli
- Main Street Cookie Company and Jumpin’ Jellies Jams, Jellies and Butters

I am personally intrigued about the tofu vendors coming. Locally made tofu? I’ve been seeking some for years! Count me in.

There will also be raffles going on in the earlier half of the evening and many baskets filled with local food and goods will be the prizes. Winners will be announced at 7:30 p.m., so get in early if you want to have a shot at taking some home.

The Co-Op isn’t just going to be a grocery store (I covered that and more here), but rather will eventually function as a community center as well. TFC wants to get those who’ve already joined the Co-Op even more fired up, and get those not familiar with it up to speed on where the co-op is now (still needing to raise additional funds before August 1), and hopefully getting them on board to support this greatly needed community resource.

I will definitely be in attendance and I hope to see you there!

Pertinent details:

Date: Tuesday, June 28
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Location: Bluebeard Coffee and Cork! Wine Bar, 2201 6th Ave. (at the intersection of State Street & 6th Ave.)
Cost: Free! But proceeds from drink sales go towards TFC, and Co-Op members receive special discounts on drinks
Facebook event page
TFC Blog post

On the importance of food co-ops and bringing one to Tacoma

If you live in Tacoma or if you have read this blog before, you’ve probably heard buzz about the future Tacoma Food Co-Op, and the fact that they are planning on opening their doors at the space currently occupied by the Neighborhood Market on 6th Ave. & Junett on Aug. 1. But maybe you’ve never heard of a food co-op and don’t know what they are. Or maybe you’re wondering how it will differ from a traditional grocery store, or exactly how it will benefit you and the community. Maybe you fear that only hippies and earth huggers go to co-ops. These are all great questions and thoughts, and after realizing this I thought I’d write a bit about food co-ops, why they’re so important and why Tacoma definitely needs one.

Storefront of Madison Market Co-Op in Seattle. Photo courtesy of http://madisonmarket.com.

First off, let’s define a co-op, short for cooperative.

From www.coopdirectory.org: “In the loosest sense, a co-op is any voluntary organization composed of a group of individuals (or organizations) formed for their mutual (generally, financial) benefit. A familiar example is a group of roommates who rent an apartment together to save money.

These informal associations and the more formal ones discussed below all share a number of common features.

  • They all are democratic, volunteer associations.
  • They are formed for mutual financial benefit (to save money or to increase buying power); in short, they are businesses.
  • They have no owners other than their members.
  • They are non-profit organizations; what would be profit in other organizations is returned to the member/owners.”

See also: the seven principles of co-ops.

Co-ops can take many forms and don’t just sell food. You may already belong to one without knowing it. Member of a credit union? A mutual insurance company? REI? All co-ops, my friends.

Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity, and they uphold these in their day-to-day business, hiring and retaining of employees, extending ownership to their members and in many more ways.

So with the pertinent example in Tacoma of a food co-op, anyone who joins becomes a member, and thus an owner. Your paying your share of the co-op means that you own a part of the co-op, which is pretty cool in and of itself. But as a result of that, you also have a say in the business of the co-op, including but not limited to: who is on the board of directors, what products and services come to the co-op and the ways in which the co-op becomes involved in the community. You have the opportunity to listen to and be heard by your community and see the changes affected by the people and organizations who step up to support the co-op.

And when the co-op does well, the money is not shared between executives, but rather goes back to the owners. Herein lies the main differences between co-ops and grocery stores: you choose, you say, the products come, you benefit. As opposed to a traditional box grocery store where there are limited distributors and thus there are limits on the types of products they can carry, the quality of the food may not be as great as you’d like, and you may be supporting a corporation that doesn’t align with your values. With co-ops, keeping members involved and happy is tantamount to their success.

We haven’t even talked about the food and products yet. Natural, higher quality, organic, hard-to-find and local are all qualities of food that co-ops strive to fill their aisles and shelves with. As I mentioned in my previous post about attending the TFC member meeting, I belong to Madison Market Co-Op in Seattle. What I love so much about being a member there (both now, and when I lived in Seattle) is the fact that I could find hard to track down health products, food items and get all the spices and random odds and ends I needed from their plentiful bulk bins.

Regardless of your diet, if you are health-conscious and care about your food, co-ops are your friends. And if they don’t have something you’re looking for, chances are there will be a person there who would be more than happy to talk to you about bringing it to the store, rather than filling out a form that you’re not even sure reaches the right person in the end. On top of all this, co-ops also work to bring all of these great types of products to their members at affordable prices so that members can maintain a healthier lifestyle without feeling as though they’re breaking the bank.

In addition to food and member-ownership, food co-ops also function as community centers. Events, cooking and other educational classes, music, parties, even yoga classes take place in co-ops and are added benefits to members. With the future Tacoma store, the co-op’s current methods of outreach and querying current and future members makes me feel pretty confident that education and events will be an integral part of the TFC once it opens its doors, and I can’t wait to see the ways in which it continues to build and foster community.

Though Tacoma does already have a health food store, farmers markets and grocery stores that lean more towards healthful, organic and local products, we can still greatly benefit from having a food co-op in our city. Money from sales supports local farmers, businesses and the local employees who run the store. Healthy, local and affordable food will be accessible to individuals of every income level, and that is an important value that the community should remember and consider when pondering whether or not to join.

Membership for the TFC is $100, and once you join you become a member for life. There are payment plans available, and they are all outlined on the co-op’s website.

If you’re just as eager to see the ways in which a co-op can change a community for the better, I’d urge you to join as well.

If you have more questions, check out their site at http://tacomafoodcoop.com/, Facebook, Twitter or check out one of their upcoming Coffee Talks where you can speak with board members, the co-op’s new General Manager and become a member of the co-op. The next Coffee Talk takes place tonight, May 13 from 5-6 p.m. at the Greener Bean coffee shop in Fircrest.

What are you looking forward to most about having a food co-op in Tacoma?

 

Tacoma Co-Op meeting + ‘Why We Love Dogs…’ book review

As those check the Vegan Moxie Facebook page know, last Monday was a busy one for me, but definitely the best kind of busy.

I attended the Tacoma Food Co-Op member meeting (my first since joining) at the Evergreen State College Tacoma campus that evening to be a part of the discussion about the official purchase of the retail location at what is now the Neighborhood Market, as well as ways in which the organization plans to keep fundraising. For those who aren’t quite as familiar with TFC or up-to-date on recent developments, let me get you up to speed.

As of April 24 the Co-Op has 500 members (maybe more now!), but in order to actually get the store up and running and hire the General Manger (who will learn the basics of the store before seeking out the other employees to join), more funds need to be raised. At the meeting, board members went into further detail about this.

“Although this is a huge milestone, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. We need to raise $300-400,000 to hire our General Manager and staff, complete minor modifications to the store, and begin purchasing inventory.”

The way that TFC has identified being able to raise this much money is what they call their “investment vehicle,” in which members pledge to invest in the Co-Op. This money isn’t guaranteed to be returned to the individuals that give it, but if the Co-Op eventually does well there could be modest returns. At the meeting board members tried to affirm the fact that investing larger amounts of money (the base amount for this type of investment is described as $500, but payments can be made) is making an investment in the community, not in their stock portfolios. No one should invest assuming they will make large returns, or any at all, and hopefully there are enough individuals in the community willing to do so despite this uncertainty and the economic climate.

Members were recently emailed a survey asking how much they’d be willing to invest, and a few said up to $10,000, so hopefully Tacoma does have some interested and generous individuals willing to help make this much needed cooperative finally happen in our city. I’ve been a member of Madison Market Co-Op in Seattle since I used to live on Capitol Hill, and I absolutely adore it. Their bulk section is amazing, their organic and vegan items are plentiful, the produce unmatched and knowing that I’m an owner of the market is a great feeling. I still stop in nearly every time I’m in the area as the store just has a great aura about it and it gives me fond memories of all of the picnics, parties and dinners that benefited from food and items found at the co-op. To have one in Tacoma would be a dream come true, and I think it would become an asset to the city in time as people learned more about co-ops and how they can greatly benefit a community.

If you’d like more information about the Tacoma Food Co-Op or have questions about becoming a member, there are some more upcoming Coffee Talks coming up this month where you can ask questions, meet board members and find out what the Co-Op’s next steps are. Check out their newly updated website and Facebook page for info on specific dates and other news.

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After I stayed at the TFC meeting for about 40 minutes, I rushed over to King’s Books to make the South Sound Vegans’ monthly book club meeting. This month there were more members in attendance (about nine) and the book discussed was Melanie Joy’s “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism.”

As I briefly mentioned in a previous post, I started reading this book early and finished it pretty fast, and that’s because I found it so engrossing. The way in which Joy conveyed her ideas in this book were appealing to me because they were from a psychologist’s point of view, which is a bit different from that of most vegan books. Usually, they’re written from members of one of two camps: diehard, long-time vegans, vegetarians and animal rights activists and doctors/scientists. One side some may find biased, and the other some may find to be really hard to read or quite dense if you don’t have a science-related degree. With Joy, this isn’t the case as she is a psychology professor who truly knows how to break concepts and thoughts down into terms anyone who’s ever taken a basic psychology course (or to even those who haven’t) can understand.

Her arguments are strong and are based in sound theories, not illogical or disjointed statements or opinions. The book is extremely well-written while also portraying vivid and graphic images of how animals are killed to produce food and products for humans and also putting a name on this act: carnism. It lays plain the incongruity that has become the American diet: eating and wearing animals while also claiming to love others as pets. She reaffirms the fact that this is an easy state to fall into because slaughterhouses are hidden, videos showing the ways in which these animals are killed and processed are few and those that do exist are sometimes removed, further eliminating them from the public, (a recent example: a video of an undercover investigative video by Mercy For Animals, showing cruelty to calves at a Texas cattle company was removed by YouTube). And there’s a reason that these businesses are keeping these animals’ deaths invisible – so that people will keep buying their products without question. For those who’d like their ethics to line up with their actions, vegetarianism and inevitably veganism are, according to Joy, the logical next steps.

The last idea I’ll highlight from the book is the notion of the “Three Ns of Justification.”

“There is a vast mythology surrounding meat, but all the myths are in one way or another related to what I refer to as the Three Ns of Justification: eating meat is normal, natural and necessary. The Three Ns have been invoked to justify all exploitative systems, from African slavery to the Nazi Holocaust. When an ideology is in its prime, these myths rarely come under scrutiny. However, when the system finally collapses, the Three Ns are recognized as ludicrous.”

I felt that these justifications truly resonated with me, because I’ve heard them countless times since going vegetarian and vegan. A few examples: ‘God put animals on this earth to be eaten,’ ‘People were born to eat meat,’ ‘How can you get your protein if you don’t eat meat?!’ etc. When put into this context, I feel that individuals reading this book who may never have thought about the reasons why they eat meat, (other than it’s what they’ve always done/have been raised to do), may actually stop and question their habits and try to see if they line up with their beliefs. I never attempt to push my beliefs about veganism on anyone and generally only discuss it when asked, but if anyone ever asks for book recommendations on why to go vegan, this book will definitely now be at the top of my list. Whether you are a curious meat-loving carnivore, a vegetarian looking to possibly transition or a long-time vegan, I think anyone could benefit from reading the book, and possibly giving their diet and lifestyle further contemplation as a result of Joy’s effort.

The next book club meeting for the South Sound Vegan Meetup takes place on Tuesday, May 24 at 7 p.m. at King’s Books, and the book to be discussed is “Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?” by Anthony J. Nocella II and Steven Best, PhD. Copies of the book are available now at King’s Books. Check out the meetup’s new Facebook page, and join the discussion at the next meeting if you can!