Local organic food co-op sells ‘real food’ varietyWritten by Alissa Romstadt | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Variety is the spice of health, said Abby Youngs, general manager of The Phoenix Earth Food Co-op.
The store, at 1447 W. Sylvania Ave., sells locally grown, organic produce and other groceries.
There is no single owner.
“We’re owned by the community,” Youngs said. “We all become business partners when we purchase a share of the co-op.”
The 130-member co-op is governed by a nine- to 11-member board. Any member is eligible to run for the board and vote for members. Lifetime memberships cost $200, payable in installments during that year. That membership cost is fully refundable.
“You’re investing in your business,” she said. “That money becomes capital.”
While the co-op is open to the public, and even accepts food stamps, Youngs said membership has its advantages.
“Let’s say you are super in love with Jenny’s Macaroons,” Youngs said. “You can purchase a case of it and you get 5 percent off because you’ve purchased in bulk. If you’re a member, you get 10 percent off of the cost.”
For members who volunteer four hours a month, those macaroons cost 15 percent off the shelf price.
“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” Youngs said. “We’re all fighting for the same thing, which is real food for everybody at reasonable prices.”
The co-op institutes the bulk buying principle. The more members it has, the larger quantity it can purchase at lower prices.
“We want to get this food to everybody,” Youngs said. “If it says it’s whole grain, it’s whole grain. It’s locally grown produce, right now in season — milk, eggs and turkeys for Thanksgiving.”
The Phoenix Earth Food Co-op was started 17 years ago by a group of people looking to recreate the former Earth Food Co-op, which had closed 10 years previous, Helen Elden said.
Elden, 71, is a founding member, grocery buyer and assistant manager.
“It’s something I believe in, definitely,” she said. “It’s a community store. Before we opened, I used to go to Ann Arbor for my groceries twice a month.”
Buying local organic produce also has advantages. The food is better, Youngs said, healthier for the environment and consumers.
“Even the organic stuff from Mexico is totally different. [Our produce is] picked the day it’s delivered, versus picked and shipped and refrigerated the whole way. It’s like bringing the garden to you. If you can’t have a garden, come here and shop from someone else’s,” she said.
The co-op orders from 20-30 local vendors.
“You read what’s in a pudding cup, and the top of the container isn’t big enough to list the ingredients,” Youngs said. “You look at what pudding is, and it’s like eight ingredients. We have ice cream that is cream, sugar, eggs and vanilla and you can totally taste the difference.”
Her father is a diabetic, her mother is pre-diabetic and they’re both on blood pressure medication.
“Everyone says, ‘It’s genetic,’ I don’t believe that,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of people with a lot of problems with their families who are healthier than everyone.”
She has felt her own health change since switching to eating “real food.”
“I just see how well my whole body works and how much sharper I am. And I didn’t even realize I was foggy, but I was. I want as many people to feel as good as I do. It’s amazing.”
Youngs said she hopes to continue educating people on the realities of what food is doing to their bodies.
“It’s not that difficult,” she said. “We have like-Oreos that are really delicious. When you start eating those, Oreos start tasting waxy. Your tastes begin to change and your body starts to crave healthy.”