Who Owns Your Grocery Store?
A new book about consumer-owned grocery stores pulls back the curtain on the grocery giants. Author Jon Steinman will be reading at the Rossland Public Library on September 3 at 6:30 pm.
For many of us fortunate enough to be able to purchase our food from a grocery store, rarely do we give ourselves the opportunity to inquire into the companies selling us the food. Who owns the grocery stores we shop at? What influence do these often national or multinational chains exert on the production, processing and distribution of food? How do these retailers contribute to the health and well-being of the communities they operate in and to what extent do they contribute or extract from local economies? These are just some of the big questions probed in Grocery Story: The Promise of Food Co-ops in the Age of Grocery Giants — a new book from journalist Jon Steinman.
“There is this fascinating interest among people of all walks of life to inquire more deeply into the food we feed ourselves and our families,” says Steinman. “This new era of food literacy is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and yet one of the most influential forces shaping the food supply has surprisingly evaded attention – the grocery store – the epicenter of our food gathering ritual.”
Grocery Story is receiving considerable praise from leaders in the movement for good food. “A great read! Full of energy and eyes-wide-open hope,” writes France Moore Lappé, author of the seminal food book Diet for a Small Planet. “In an era of extreme economic concentration, Jon Steinman awakens us to elements of an arising democratic economy, hidden in plain sight,” adds Lappé. “Grocery Story is, above all, an empowering tale we need now more than ever.”
The democratic economy Lappé speaks of are consumer-owned grocery stores – food cooperatives (or co-ops). This unique business model has been used widely to provide goods and services for well over one hundred years as an alternative to private ownership. When the model is applied to food retail, consumer co-ops offer grocery store customers the opportunity to co-own the store they shop at. For just a $50-$200 investment, you could be the proud co-owner of your grocery store. No longer interested in co-owning the store? Your money is returned to you. “It’s really quite remarkable – almost revolutionary,” says Steinman. “The cooperative model is democratizing the economy, and best of all, it’s a well-established alternative already operating in communities of all sizes across the continent.”
Melissa Cohen is the General Manager of the Isla Vista Food Co-op near Santa Barbara, California. Her co-op serves a predominantly student population. At a time when 67% of America’s grocery dollars end up in the pockets of only five companies, Cohen believes a book like this is needed now more than ever. “This book offers an important consideration of the impact that can happen when going to the grocery store becomes an activity and not a chore, and when a grocery cart can ultimately become a vehicle for social change,” says Cohen. Stuart Reid of the Food Co-op Initiative (FCI) agrees. FCI is at the forefront of new food co-op development. “Jon Steinman has done an excellent job of describing the evolution of the grocery business from local, independent owners to chain stores,” says Reid. “Cooperatives provide an alternative that helps us reclaim control over our food systems and communities.”
To launch the book, Steinman is touring across the U.S. and Canada throughout 2019 with visits to upwards of 130 food co-ops from coast to coast. The tour runs from April through December with dates posted at www.grocerystory.coop.
Jon Steinman is the producer and host of the internationally syndicated radio show and podcast Deconstructing Dinner (2006-2010) and of Deconstructing Dinner: Reconstructing our Food System – a television and web series currently streaming online. Jon was an elected director from 2006-2016 of the Kootenay Co-op – Canada's largest independent retail consumer food co-op, serving as Board President from 2014-2016. He lives in Nelson, British Columbia. www.deconstructingdinner.com