National Co+op Grocers (NCG) announced on Thursday it has invested more than $75,000 in organizations and initiatives dedicated to creating a more equitable, just food system and society.
The business services cooperative owned by retail food co-ops is also supporting bold legislative proposals and adjusting its operations to expand diversity and develop a more inclusive culture.
“’Concern for the Community’ is a core co-op principle, and this year has brought clarity that our greatest concern must be helping ensure our food system is fair and open to everyone,” said C.E. Pugh, NCG’s Chief Executive Officer. “With that in mind, NCG is investing money, staff time and the collective strength of our community-owned food co-ops to improve equity in our communities through strategic partnerships and public policy.”
Among NCG’s more than $75,000 in investments:
Agricultural Justice Project’s Social Justice Fund
The Agricultural Justice Project’s social justice fund provides free Food Justice Certification and technical assistance for independent, smaller-scale family farms and local, independent, small-scale grocers. NCG’s donation is specifically dedicated to farms interested in pursuing Food Justice Certification that are led by farmers identifying as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC), including immigrant farmworker-led farms, that meet certifcation criteria.
“Food Justice Certification is a benefit that brings, along with the IFOAM principles of organic agriculture, added wellbeing into organic farming systems and to Black, Indigenous and farmers of color organic agroecology farming communities. It is a part of the wellbeing strategy of our BIPOC small-scale USDA Certified Organic farm,” explained Jennifer Taylor of Lola’s Organic Farm in Glenwood, Georgia. “NCG’s assistance has strengthened the mission of Food Justice Certification to promote access and availability to BIPOC farmers and their communities, growing the benefits across the country.”
Leah Penniman, Co-director of Food Justice Certified Soul Fire Farm in Petersburg, New York added: “We encourage all farmers to get certified through the Agricultural Justice Project, to signify a commitment to worker rights and protections. While it’s a tragedy that federal labor laws exclude farmworkers from many provisions, we can take action now, one farm at a time, to restore those basic rights.”
Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund Food Box Program
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives’ Land Assistance Fund Food Box Program connects Black farmers in the Southern U.S. who have lost significant market share due to the COVID-19 pandemic with area families that are facing food insecurity.
“The Federation is proud to have NCG as a partner in our work to support Black farmers and cooperatives across the Southeast who are creating sustainable local food systems that are feeding families in need,” said Chawn Redden, Regional Marketing Coordinator for the Federation.
National Farm to School Network’s Food System Call to Action
In 2020 the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) issued a system-wide call to action: “By 2025, 100% of communities will hold power in a racially just food system.” The mission and work of NFSN is well-aligned with that of the food co-ops NCG serves—including this bold vision for community empowerment.
“National Farm to School Network is grateful to NCG for its continued investment in our work and our vision for a racially just food system,” said Helen Dombalis, Executive Director of National Farm to School Network. “Achieving this vision is a pressing need that none of us can reach alone, and NCG’s partnership is especially impactful in our collective efforts of shifting power and correcting inequities that persist within our food system.” NCG’s investment builds on NCG’s 2019 fundraising efforts to support NFSN’s equity learning lab.
NCG’s Federal Policy Advocacy and Organizational Change
In addition to investing money in partnerships to build a more equitable food system, NCG is advocating for federal legislation to bring about systemic change and working to build a more diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace.
In 2020, NCG advocated for federal legislation that would end qualified immunity for police officers and supported proposals that would reserve funding for community development and minority depository financial institutions that serve BIPOC communities in COVID-19 relief legislation. Additionally, NCG is proud to endorse The Justice for Black Farmers Act that would reform the U.S. Department of Agriculture and create a land grant program to encourage a new generation of Black farmers.
NCG is in its third year of working with TMI Consulting, a diversity and inclusion management consultancy, to build a more diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace. In this time, the organization has created a roadmap for change, formed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee, begun to measure supplier diversity and provided DEI training for staff. In 2020 NCG paid for voluntary employee education on racism and privilege through the purchase of books and online coursework. TMI is now working with NCG’s Board of Directors and executive leadership team to build a strategic roadmap for food co-ops.
National Co+op Grocers (NCG), founded in 1999, is a business services cooperative for retail food co-ops located throughout the United States. NCG helps unify food co-ops in order to optimize operational and marketing resources, strengthen purchasing power, and ultimately offer more value to natural food co-op owners and shoppers everywhere. Our 147 member co-ops operate more than 200 storefronts in 38 states with combined annual sales of nearly $2.1 billion. NCG is a winner of the dotCoop Global Awards for Cooperative Excellence and a certified B Corp. Find a map of NCG member co-ops. To learn more about co-ops, visit www.welcometothetable.coop.