We toss the word community around a lot. It’s in our name. We use it in KCG publicity all the time. But what do we mean by it? Why do we value it so highly? The connotations of belonging, of mutual respect for and support of our neighbors, of cooperation and shared experiences all figure in.
Longwood Gardens is also tuned into the notion of community. For the tenth year Longwood is offering a “Community Read,” a shared reading experince that invites all of us to “belong.” And for those of us working towards the vision of a community grocery store, the current selection is particularly relevant.
The Longwood Community Read this year includes Black Food by Bryant Terry, a rich collection of stories, essays, recipes, and artwork from across the African Diaspora. The beautiful accounts of nourishing traditions, wonderful recipes, and sacred energies reveal the many ways in which food is a connector of people. As Terry honors the food of particular locations and cultures, he draws readers into those spaces. A diaspora necessarily represents the history of people moving and being moved around the world. His book returns dislocated people to a sense of community – and invites everyone else in, too.
A food cooperative is also a connector of the many different cultures and traditions of the shoppers – of the member-owners – who together make decisions about bringing in local food and sharing myriad traditions with each other.
The beauty and strength of a community-owned cooperative grocery store is that the members choose to come together and share with each other and the community food and products that highlight the ethnic, cultural, and local diversities of our region and thus create a space where everyone can belong. We can do this because, as a community-owned grocery store, we are not beholden to corporate owners whose mission is to use the product-line of the grocery store as a way to maximize profit-margin. Though we certainly want to pay the bills, our mission is to serve our unique southern Chester County citizens in a way that respects and nourishes the backgrounds of all while supporting the economic health of our farmers and the land on which we live. Our sense of belonging is grounded in our communal values not in profit requirements for people we have never met.
Let’s come together and belong to this effort of bringing a community food co-op to our area.