Welcome to The Alternative Food Cooperative! We'd like to give you a little background information on the Co-op; how and when it got started, what a Co-op is, and how you can make joining the Co-op a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
The Alternative Food Cooperative began in 1970 as a grass roots organization with about a dozen families in the Kingston area participating. Its primary purpose was to provide high quality natural food to its members at affordable prices. In 1970, there were no natural food stores in Rhode Island and Co-op members took turns driving to the now defunct Erewhon Natural Food Distributors in Boston for their food. They loaded their cars or trucks with grains, beans, nuts and other foods that the members may have requested. The food was distributed on a weekly basis, usually at the home of the member doing the purchasing that week.
After a year, the Co-op expanded to the community, moving its working operation to the basement of St. Augustine's Episcopal Church on Lower College Road in Kingston. A scale, paper and pencil and adding machine were the Co-op's only store equipment. At this time the Co-op was operated for members only and all work was volunteer. As URI faculty and student participation increased, the Co-op was able to acquire space in the basement of Roosevelt Hall at the University of Rhode Island. We fixed up our basement quarters there, expanding and growing, offering a wider selection of foods and other related items. We remained in Roosevelt Hall for over 20 years.
Our move (on Labor Day!) in 1994 to Kingstown Road in West Kingston was the latest step in our evolution. We are still the original grass roots organization at our core, but we have grown into a larger natural foods market serving the whole community and offering ever-expanding variety of foods. We sell organic fresh fruits and vegetables, tofu, tempeh and other vegetarian products, a wide selection of grocery items, milk eggs, bread, antibiotic-free/nitrite-free meats, vitamins and supplements, health and beauty products, imported and domestic cheeses, nutritious snacks, foods for special diets and allergies, bulk grains, nuts beans, pastas, ice cream and other frozen desserts, herbal and homeopathic remedies, books, gifts, bulk herbs and spices, teas and coffees.
We moved to the current location on Main Street, Wakefield in January of 2000. With generous donations of labor and supplies, the storefront was rewired, the checkout counter built, the floor installed, storage shelving constructed and the store repainted. Member loans and gifts along with some bank financing made our move here, with all the improvements and equipment needed, possible. Finally moving day arrived, and it was an all volunteer effort. The back of the station wagon days were indeed over.
The Alternative Food Co-op is a co-operative and its members are working together toward a common objective. Our purpose is to provide high quality natural foods at affordable prices to members and to the general public. We are a member-owned and member-controlled organization seeking to offer our community an alternative to mass-produced foods of limited nutritional value. The Alternative Food Co-op's philosophy is "Food for People-Not for Profit."
The Cooperative belongs to us. It is our Co-op. Each of us is responsible for a part of it. We can make of the Co-op what we want it to be. It can be as important and special as we make it. You, as an individual, can give your time and talents. Working together toward common goals, the Co-op becomes the best it can be; a special place to work, shop and socialize. We each have a stake in the outcome.
As a member, you too can help make policy and important future Co-op decisions. The Board of Directors meet monthly to talk about plans, procedures, problems and goals of the Co-op. As a member, you may attend any of these meetings. You can observe how policy is made and you may speak and have a say on those issues.
We also have an annual meeting and potluck dinner, at which time the board members are elected. All members are strongly urged to attend this gathering where we all get together to discuss the well-being of the Co-op and enjoy the good fellowship.
The Co-op can be experienced on many levels. You may choose to only be a purchaser of high quality natural foods. That's great all by itself. Purchasing high quality natural foods at affordable prices is a primary benefit of joining the Co-op. Or you may choose to become a working member with a two hour per month work commitment. Working members receive a 6% discount off shelf prices. A very committed member can work 2 hours per week and receive a 12% "super worker" discount. As a working member, you may be called upon to stock shelves, cut cheese, bag dried fruit, price orders or clean the store. All working member are can enter our working members' monthly raffle. In addition to in-store workers, we also need people to do community outreach projects, membership development, publicity, fund raising, artwork, carpentry, plumbing and office work. These job skills are in just a few of the many work areas needed to keep the Co-op operating smoothly. If you have a skill or talent not mentioned, let us know. We'll find a place for you.
Another benefit of becoming a member is an opportunity to meet other Co-op members and work co-operatively with them in a congenial, relaxed atmosphere. It's a lot of fun combining work and social interaction.
From time to time, the Co-op offers workshops on health-related topics led by knowledgeable community members. The dates of the workshops are posted on our bulletin board and in our newsletter. In the past, we have offered workshops on macrobiotic cooking, herbal therapies, Reiki, homeopathy, and exercise programs to name a few. Please take advantage of all the Co-Op has to offer.
To join the Co-op as a worker or non-worker, it is necessary to provide a membership deposit. Individual students pay a $15 deposit, single adults pay a $25 deposit and family households pay a $50 deposit. The money the Co-op receives from deposits is used for working capital. You can look at the deposit as a refundable loan you make to the Co-op which you may withdraw when you leave or terminate your connection with the Co-op.
In addition to the deposit, there is an annual membership fee, which is non-refundable. The annual fee is used to purchase store items such as refrigeration units, scales, cash registers and computer equipment. Membbership fees are: $36 single, $48 family, and $24 senior/students.
Compiled by Jim N. & Art S.