Sweet P and I took a trip to Brooklyn yesterday to visit my sister in her new apartment. Our first stop was a mecca for all locavores and foodies: The Park Slope Food Coop!
First I will tell you what the co-op is all about, and then I will give you my grocery list and recipes that followed.
A Park Slope Coop Introduction:
Going by the cooperative model, belonging to a coop is also ‘co-owning’ a grocery store. Since the co-op is owned and operated by it’s members, they owe allegiance only to the members, not to big agro or corporations.
The P.S. Coop was founded in 1973 by a group of people in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY who wanted a better option for purchasing food. It started in someone’s house and they eventually expanded to their current location on Union Street.
The mission of the coop includes keeping mark-ups no higher than 20% of wholesale prices, supporting local farmers, and educating their members about their food supply. Most of the food sold there is organic, but not exclusively (since many farmers are now opting out of the official organic distinction due to the cost, but continue to practice responsible growing techinques.)
Taken from the Park Slope COOP brochure:
We are a unique community of over 16,000 people that provides many services and benefits to our members including:
Meeting new people/networking
childcare during most house (AMAZING!!!-Sweet P agrees)
Food stamps & coupons accepted
Lectures and Workshops
Social Events and concerts
Environmental and food activism
Participation in coop goverance
My sister, Jaime (above!), is a member at the coop, so that is how I gained entry! It is like a very exclusive (and AWESOME) club and they are very strict about their rules. Every member must show their member card when they enter and you have to sign in every guest (photo ID required.) I was designated a ‘NON-SHOPPING’ Guest so I got a massive scarlet letter sticker to make sure that everyone knew I was not allowed to shop there! The rules of the coop include using the coop as your personal shop, not to shop for other people.
In the picture above, Jaime is shopping the bulk foods section. Since she forgot her cotton bags for the bulk produce, she had to use plastic…dirty looks followed hence the title of this post!
This is one way that the coop manages to keep costs down. They don’t use plastic bags or even paper bags at check out and encourage you to BYO for everything, including produce and bulk items.
As a coop member, you are required to work at the coop. A shift consists of about 3 hrs at a time and could be doing anything from stocking shelves to childcare. You cannot swap your shift or have your assistant do it for you. You must be present at your required shift times (they are flexible about scheduling) or you will be put on ‘alert’ or possibly kicked out! This also helps keep the cost of running the coop down, since they don’t need to hire workers.
Membership is FREE but there can be a wait list. Once you are accepted, you go through a membership orientation where they teach you the rules and give you some job training for your required shifts.
Jaime and I planned our dinner party for last night in advance (since I wouldn’t be allowed to purchase anything at the coop) so we went in with a list and a mission. We picked up beautiful top round beef, organic mushrooms, spices (which are bought in bulk), flour and sugar (also in bulk), a fresh Brooklyn Baguette, some extra salad greens, and some beautiful cheeses. Our bill for those items was under $50!!! We were about to have a beautiful dinner party for 5 full of delicious, local, organic ingredients for pennies.
This is why I love the Park Slope Coop!! Everyone should learn about it and if you are in Brooklyn, get your butt to the coop!!
Why does Sweet P’s Kitchen care about the P.S. Coop??
I love the idea of community supported business, especially involving awesome and healthy food. I would love to be able to bring a COOP like this to Westchester and I am interested in your feedback. Is this something we (as a community) should pursue? Would it do well here?
Park slope coop actually encourages new coops to start up around the country through a program called “The Fund for New Coops” and you can read more about it on their website
Recipes to follow, xo, SW and Sweet P