Unwavering Spirit in a Time of Change
By Emile Amarotico, General Manager
It’s been two months since my last update on our Co-op community, but it could just as well have been two years ago, or from an alternate reality! Needless to say, life at the Co-op has changed, and it hasn’t been easy for employees or shoppers. But despite the challenges, it has been an inspiring and reaffirming time that reminds us why we love the cooperative enterprise.
It is impossible not to be proud of the care and compassion the Co-op community has shown since the coronavirus began to impact our daily lives. That started with the Co-op Board of Directors deciding unanimously that 100% of the over $600,000 patronage dividends for 2019 should be returned to owners. In most years, a portion of that amount is retained for future development and reinvestment in Co-op operations, but knowing the financial insecurity that many are facing in light of the pandemic, we wanted to maximize assistance to our community. One shopper let us know they had not yet received any unemployment benefits, so their dividend return was literally keeping food on the table.
For others, the 100% dividend was an opportunity for charity. With the option to donate dividends to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, over $15,000 has already been donated to help those facing food insecurity.
There’s also been no lack of volunteer support. At the beginning of April, the CDC and other health authorities began to recommend face coverings in public. With the aim of protecting Co-op employees without taking away medical-grade N95 masks from health care workers, a group of six community members, led by board member Julie O’Dwyer, stitched together enough masks for each employee to have a fresh one each day. Thanks again to Joe Dunbar, Erin McConnell, Erica Thompson, board member Trine Ostergaard, Jenni Presley, and Cindy Goodwin for their selfless work. Additionally, we’re seeing neighbors arrive with large shopping lists to pick up groceries for vulnerable neighbors.
Of course, there have been difficulties. We celebrate the diverse backgrounds and viewpoints that the Rogue Valley nurtures, and have tried to accommodate everyone without being overly restrictive. But there’s no blueprint for businesses or individuals on how to navigate a global pandemic, so we know we won’t get it right 100% of the time. Please know that we are looking to healthcare professionals and national examples of other co-ops and grocery stores to keep safety as the main priority. We hope that you’ll continue to support our employees and each other with patience and kindness (and masks, too!).
Summer is just around the corner and we hope that we might return to something resembling where we were this time last year. We will continue to provide great customer service, healthy food, support for local growers and producers, and warmth and caring to the best of our ability and within the guidelines of health experts. Thanks for being part of what makes this Co-op and our community such a great place to be, and for rising to the challenge of doing our best for our neighbors.
More Co-op News
Thanks to the many agile and adaptable experts in the Rogue Valley, the much-loved Free Monday Night Lectures live on - even if everything is moving online.
While we miss seeing community members with a joy of learning showing up at the Co-op Classroom, we hope these recordings teach and inspire you.
By Nina Friedman, Strategic Energy Management intern
The Ashland Food Co-op has played a critical role supporting our community for nearly 50 years by providing healthy food and a safe place to shop. With the recent COVID-19 shutdown, this support has been even more important and has stretched our organization in ways that we could not have anticipated. We have endeavored to address the needs of both our staff and our customers, hopefully in the most cooperative manner.
The Ashland Food Co-op acknowledges and shares our community’s concerns about protecting against the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The safety and health of staff and customers is a top priority for the Co-op. We are taking proactive steps throughout our store to maintain a clean atmosphere to work and shop.
We have consolidated store changes below.
As an owner of the Ashland Food Co-op, you are an important decision-maker in the leadership of the Co-op! A vital part of your ownership is voting for the Board of Directors.
On the ballot: Vote for Board Candidates and Change for Good Organizations
Vote for Board Candidates
This year, four candidates are nominated for three Board positions: each elected Board director will serve a three-year term. The candidates are Ed Claassen, Mark Gibbs, Carolina Livi and Julie O'Dywer.
Mark the evening of May 13 at 5pm on your calendar and join us for the 2020 AFC Annual Meeting. We’ll host the meeting online using Google Hangouts. Please click here to join the meeting, or call in at this number:
PIN: 719 680 293 2056#
The Co-op has always had a focus on supporting the strong local scene of growers and producers - and in these times, it's even more important. Here is just a small selection of some of our favorites from the area. Help support local businesses next time you stop by the Co-op by picking one of these products.
By Rianna Koppel, Sustainability Coordinator
In the midst of a health crisis, how can we focus on sustainability? Let’s be real - these are tough times!
What does sustainability look like now? I like to refer to the definition of sustainability - meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. How can we meet the needs of the present, while keeping the future in mind?
By Annie Hoy, Board Director
This month, AFC Owners will democratically elect a slate of board candidates. These candidates are co-op owners, just like you and me. By holding annual elections, co-ops around the world and close to home are expressing Cooperative Principle 2: Democratic Member Control.
From the Board of Directors:
This year, the Co-op Board of Directors is taking unprecedented action to distribute 100% of the over $628,000 2019 Patronage Dividend to our owners. In this time of great need, there is no holding back. This is not the moment to put away funds for the future, but rather to support our owners fully so that we may all have more strength to weather the storm.
Michelle isn't serving up samples right now, so she's serving up kitchen tips instead! Here's her tried and true approach to cooking dry beans, plus some extra tips for upping your flavor, saving time, and cook other legumes. (Ingredients and modifications are below the video.)
By Mahlea Rasmussen, Education Coordinator
Inspired by Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Home
We are in uncertain times and some of you may be second-guessing some of your zero waste practices and replacing them with safety measures for you and your family. I was proud not to have chemical cleaners in my home and never used plastic gloves - but now those products are being suggested for staying clean and safe. Here are some tips to keep your home safe while working towards more sustainability.
Until a crisis like this occurs, few think of Grocers as essential service providers. However, our employees have been here day in and day out, risking their health and the safety of their loved ones, to provide food for our community. This is not a job that can be done from home or from what is now considered a safe social distance. Our employees have worked with the utmost professionalism, care, and concern for shopper well-being.
The Co-op's general manager, Emile Amorotico, sat down with the newest addition to the co-op's management team, Reagan Roach. Get to know Reagan in the interview below - and say hi when you see him in store!
- Wishgarden Herbs - Kick Ass Immune: Your total frontline immune defense!
- Oshala Farm - Oshala Fire Cider: Locally made in the Applegate. It tastes so good you could craft a healthy dressing with this fire cider!
- Mickelberry Gardens - Elderberry: Great Immune support for kids and adults. Made in Oregon.