November/December GM Update: Overcoming Challenges

It’s probably already cliche to say “it’s been one heck of a year.” There have been challenges a-plenty for all of us, whether we’re working or shopping at the Co-op - but I’m so proud of how all of us have persevered. 

First, I wanted to thank this community for the level of engagement we’ve experienced this year. More owners are showing up at board meetings; and we’ve had productive discussions about a number of topics of concern for owners and shoppers. It should be celebrated that this community is filled with lots of different viewpoints, because diversity drives dialogue and gives us an opportunity to work together towards more compassion.

Currently, our county and region are seeing an uptick in Coronavirus cases. Our approach since March has been to be safe rather than sorry, and thanks to everyone’s combined efforts, no Co-op employees or shoppers have reported contracting the virus. The Co-op will continue to follow OHA’s recommendations for the winter, which include face coverings and other safety protocols. 

As part of the Co-op’s goal to keep shoppers safe, we launched an online grocery ordering service earlier this year to offer curbside pick-up and Ashland delivery. This has been a life-saver for a number of our shoppers - perhaps literally! As the regular flu season approaches, along with the threat of coronavirus, allowing shoppers to minimize contact when shopping is a high priority. I am very happy to report that eGrocery delivery service provided by the Rotary Club of Ashland will continue through January 31. Learn more here.

Despite the non-stop disruptions of 2020, our team of 170+ dedicated employees continues to show up day after day, week after week with uninterrupted service to our community. The job has had added challenges this year, and we have worked to support our employees. The Board of Directors supported a “hero pay” differential that began in March and has recently been extended to the end of the year. And our employees’ experiences have inspired us to state why Black Lives Matter to the Co-op (read more here). 

Of course our many friends and neighbors who were impacted by the Almeda and Obenchain Fires are still on our mind. Remember when I asked you back in 2018 to support a fundraiser for the town of Paradise after their devastating fires? I drew a parallel then to Ashland: a small city in the mountains, a diverse population, and the threat of wildfires always looming. Unfortunately, we experienced a very similar event in our valley. And the ways our community responded have moved me:

  • The Co-op’s Almeda Fire Relief Fund has raised over $110,000 - an amazing outpouring of direct financial support. Over half of this has already been distributed, and the AFC Gives committee is strategically planning additional disbursements.
  • Vendors donated thousands of dollars worth of products to support relief efforts.
  • Our staff jumped in to volunteer with Rogue Food Unites, Rogue Valley Fire aid volunteers, Rogue Action Center, ACCESS and many other organizations leading recovery efforts. 
  • Shoppers have generously donated to seven Co-op staff who lost their homes, both by directly donating to GoFundMe accounts, and by buying pumpkins in October, which raised $2,490. 
  • Product donations from our trusted vendors resulted in the new Relief Reuben at the Co-op Kitchen, where 100% of proceeds are going to relief efforts. And already over $4,700 has been raised!

One thing isn’t changing this year: the Co-op’s Thanksgiving meal, a great option for an affordable, high-quality meal, available in individual servings or as a family meal for 6-8 people. Ordering ends on November 23, and pick-up takes place on November 25 - you can check out the offerings and order here. We're also expanding the opportunities to enjoy the Co-op Kitchen’s Thanksgiving offerings through EBT/SNAP benefits - read more here. Get an early taste of Thanksgiving when we switch the hot bar on November 16, or pick up just the dishes you need or crave from the Grab & Go cooler. 

We look forward to offering a unique alternative to the annual Gingerbread Cookie Party on December 12 - while we can’t have everyone in our cozy classroom this year, you’ll still be able to pick up cookies and decorating materials to take home. 

Moving forward we're planning for a 2021 that allows us to get back to what we love: bringing this community together over healthy, flavorful food and a deep connection to our valley. We'll have backup plans, but we hope to celebrate a return to "the old normal" in 2021 - including real hugs! All of us at the Co-op wish you a peaceful and healthy holiday season.


In cooperation,
Emile Amarotico 

More Co-op News

Masks Required for All In-Store Shoppers

To protect the health of Co-op staff and shoppers, all shoppers and other visitors on Ashland Food Co-op property must wear face coverings over mouth and nose except when dining in an approved area. As of November 11, 2020, face shields will not be permitted unless worn with a mask. 

From the Board: Co-ops Look in the Mirror

By Annie Hoy, Board Secretary and Chair of Owner Engagement Committee

Food Co-ops around the nation proudly display signage saying EVERYONE WELCOME. Or they use the slogan, “Anyone can shop. Anyone can join.” But are food co-ops, and other cooperative businesses, walking the walk? 

End of year wrap-up on Strategic Energy Management at the Co-op

Hi there. I hope this finds you well. It’s me, Nina Friedman, Strategic Energy Management (SEM) intern for the Ashland Food Co-op. The global and local crises have only devolved into further chaos since we last spoke. As we sit with the reality of coworkers, neighbors, and friends who’ve lost their homes and businesses to the recent fires, and thousands more across the nation losing their loved ones to COVID-19, I imagine many are feeling frozen and powerless to help those that are suffering.

SNAP in the Co-op Kitchen and Thanksgiving

Use your SNAP EBT benefits for all Co-op Kitchen items through November 20th, 2020!

Recognizing the difficulties in food preparation for families who lost their homes in the local wildfires, the State of Oregon has expanded SNAP benefits to be used for hot foods, like made-to-order and hot bar meals from the Co-op Kitchen, through November 20.

And starting on November 16, you can get an early taste of Thanksgiving as the Co-op Kitchen hot bar rolls out the full Thanksgiving spread. 

Black Lives Matter

We acknowledge that the Ashland Food Co-op has not had a culture where all employees and community members felt safe sharing their experiences of discrimination in our store. We apologize for this. We are on a learning journey. We have reached out for help, and are listening to our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) employees and owners who want to be part of the positive change we seek.

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Vendors & businesses donating to relief efforts

From day one of the Almeda Fires, the Co-op team wanted to help the community. They reached out to vendors across the region and country to ask for their help with products, supplies and food to get to the fire victims.

And that help came through in big ways, getting nutritious food to displaced families, home supplies in high demand, and wellness and food for first responders and firefighters. Thank you for supporting these businesses as thanks for their help in our community's relief efforts.

October news at the Co-op

October is typically Co-op month, to highlight how differently cooperatives do business. But instead of talking about the 7 Cooperative Principles, or the ownership benefits of being part of the Co-op, we only need to look at the past four weeks to see what being a cooperative really means.

As part of the co-op family, you've helped the entire community immensely. 

Support Co-op staff to rebuild

The Ashland Food Co-op is dedicated to helping our community and our staff rebuild after the Almeda Fires in early September. 

For immediate support, the Co-op gave $1,000 to staff who lost their homes in the fires, as well as $250 for food and other household needs for anyone displaced due to a level 3 evacuation order.

We are thankful for the connection that so many of you have to our staff - you depend on us for recommendations, special requests, and quality customer service; and we depend on you for smiles, kindness, and interactions that brighten our day. 

Smoke Safety

There are some straight-forward and helpful ways to look out for your health when smoke is in the Rogue Valley. Here are a few suggestions:

Smoke Safety Tips

10 Things to Do in Ashland (When It's Smoky)

Ashland is a paradise for the outdoors - but sometimes Mother Nature has different plans for us.

When smoke from wildfires becomes an issue, there are still plenty of great activities to enjoy around our wonderful town. Check out this list for some inspiration!

Change for Good in September: Southern Oregon Land Conservancy

For the month of September, Ashland Food Co-op shoppers can round up at the register to support Southern Oregon Land Conservancy. Since 1973, SOLC has been working on multiple fronts to improve land quality and conservation for humans and nature alike. Check out some of the projects below that SOLC has been working on recently. And mark your calendar for Saturday, October 24, as SOLC hosts an Open Lands Day hike and tour on the Rogue River Preserve.

Chatting about community giving with JPR's "Jefferson Exchange"

Recently, Julie O'Dwyer, Ashland Food Co-op board vice-president, joined a panel of guests on Jefferson Public Radio's "Jefferson Exchange" to discuss how the pandemic has led to an even greater need for community giving and support of local non-profits.

JPR logo

Change for Good in August: KS Wild

This month's featured organization in the new Change for Good register round-up program is KS Wild (short for Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center). 

KS Wild is one of the most prominent land conservation and stewardship organizations in the region. They focus on the Klamath-Siskiyou region, which includes large swaths of Southern Oregon and Northern California (inculding the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument). This bioregion is one of the most diverse in the country, home to populations of wolves, rare plants and unique geographic formations.