Park Slope Food Coop
Board of Directors:
Elinoar Astrinsky, Mike Eakin, Ann Herpel, Joe Holtz, Tricia Leith, Lisa Moore, Jess Robinson, Joseph Szladek
|Products||Organic food, local food|
|Revenue||$39.4 million (2010)|
The Park Slope Food Coop (PSFC) is a food cooperative located in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. It is one of the oldest and largest active food co-ops in the United States. As a food cooperative, one of its goals is to be a "buying agent to its members, not a selling agent to any industry." Non-members are welcome to visit the store, but may not shop.
Formed in 1973, PSFC has grown to include over 17,000 members. The PSFC business model requires each of its adult members to contribute 2 hours and 45 minutes of work every four weeks, and that no member share a household with a non-member. In exchange, active members may shop at the store. The store sells a variety of foods and household goods, mostly environmentally friendly products, at a 21% markup over the wholesale price (compared to 26-100% at a supermarket). The savings are possible because labor is contributed by its members. PSFC operates as a New York state cooperative corporation.
Governance and management
PSFC, a cooperative corporation formed under the laws of the State of New York, is run by a Board of Directors consisting of five persons elected to staggered three-year terms by and from the membership. The longest-serving General Coordinator present at the meeting (usually Joe Holtz) serves as a voting member ex officio.
The Board of Directors gather monthly to hear the advice of the members at the General Meeting (GM), and generally approve all resolutions passed by the GM. The GM agenda is governed by an Agenda Committee, and the meeting itself is run by a Chair Committee, whose members rotate in service as chairperson and collectively serve as GM parliamentarian.
The day-to-day operations of the PSFC are run by paid employees called coordinators. The senior-ranking coordinators, called General Coordinators, are hired by the General Meeting and approved by the Board of Directors.
The coop has a Diversity and Equality Committee, whose members receive workslot credit and which proposes programs to enhance membership diversity at the coop.
The PSFC was founded in 1973. The organization initially sub-leased space with the Mongoose Community Center. By 1977 the Mongoose was defunct and the Coop started renting directly from the landlord.
In 1978, the Coop began renting 782 Union Street with an option to buy upon the expiration of a two-year lease. Expecting to buy, the Coop completed renovations in 1979 and purchased the building in 1980. This was followed in 1988 and 1999 with the purchase of the two buildings immediately to the west, with renovations completed in 1991 and 2001 respectively.
In December 2009, the Coop paid the remaining $707,000 on the mortgage for all three buildings. This pre-payment was made without penalty, as the mortgage holder, National Cooperative Bank, needed assistance after the banking crisis of 2008-2009.
Political and environmental action
The coop has a long history of political action. During the apartheid regime, goods from South Africa were banned; during the Pinochet regime, Chilean grapes were removed; Nestlé products were banned because of the company’s campaign to promote infant formula instead of breastfeeding.
Coop policy dictates that existing boycotts are discontinued unless renewed annually. Since 2004, the PSFC has boycotted Coca-Cola products (including Minute Maid and Odwalla), citing the company's labor practices and exploitation of natural resources in third-world countries. Since 2010, the PSFC has boycotted Flaum Appetizing Products for violations of labor law. Flaum is a local kosher producer known for hummus sold under its "Mike & Joe's" label.
The Coop collects a variety of hard-to-recycle plastic packaging for upcycling. This recycling initiative started with the collecting of yogurt cups to be upcycled into toothbrushes and other personal care goods by Recycline in 2008, at a time when New York City's municipal recycling limited the types of plastic accepted. With changes in NYC's trash recycling policies, the Park Slope Food Coop put together the hard-to-recycle plastics collection currently in place with Terracycle for single serve baby food pouches, plastic cling wrap, produce bags, toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, and water filters.
In 2009, The Jewish Daily Forward incorrectly stated or implied that the coop was considering a ban on Israeli products in protest of the 2009 Israeli military offensive in Gaza. In actuality, no such proposal had been placed on the agenda of the PSFC General Meeting (GM). The stories were based on two letters-to-the-editor in the February 12, 2009 edition of the PSFC's Linewaiters' Gazette. The Gazette publishes member submissions regardless of opinion. For three years members of the coop expressed their opinions in the Gazette regarding a potential boycott of Israel, and the July 26, 2011, General Meeting discussed holding a coop-wide referendum on joining the BDS movement, with no action taken. The March 27, 2012 GM, which was held at Brooklyn Technical High School due to an unprecedented turnout of nearly 1,700 members (eleven times more than typical), after a heated discussion considered and rejected a proposal to hold such a referendum.
In 2010, in response to an announcement by the menswear retailer Barneys New York that they would be opening a location in Brooklyn called Barneys Coop, the PSFC General Meeting (GM) considered taking action in light of the company's apparent violation of New York's Cooperative Corporations Law, which restricts the use of the term "coop" to cooperative businesses. The general coordinators informed the state attorney general of the violation and presented a plan for a lawsuit to the July 2010 GM, which rejected the proposal for anticipated costs. A more limited proposal was approved by the August 2010 GM but later overturned on procedural grounds.
On January 26, 2016, the Park Slope Food Coop voted in a change to The Rules For The General Meeting. It stipulated that in order to pass any boycott, a supermajority of at least 75% of the General Meeting must agree to the boycott.
PSFC's work shift requirement has inspired criticism over the years. In 2011, The New York Times also reported allegations that some members were asking their nannies to cover their work shifts.
- Kowitt, Beth (September 19, 2010). "The rise of the grocery co-op". CNN.
- PSFC Mission Statement.
- Crowe, Aaron (February 18, 2011). "Biggest Grocery Store Markups: The Worst Deals in the Aisles". DailyFinance.
- PSFC Bylaws, as amended March 27, 2001, Article III, Sections 1 and 2.
- PSFC Bylaws, as amended March 27, 2001, Article VI, Section 2.
- PSFC Bylaws, as amended March 27, 2001, Article V, Section 1.
- Welch, Liz (October 7, 2010). "Cultural Diversity Issues – At the Coop?" (PDF). Linewaiter's Gazette. EE (20): 1.
- Younge, Gary (March 16, 2006). "Are you feeling cooperative?". The Guardian.
- "Union Street Memories," Linewaiters' Gazette, November 3, 2011
- Kaplan, Eva (December 31, 2009). "Diversity and Equality Get the Last Word at December GM" (PDF). Linewaiter's Gazette. p. 2.
- Gersten, Lana (February 18, 2009). "Food Fight: Brooklyn Co-op Mulls Israel Ban". The Jewish Daily Forward.
- "Resolution to Remove Coca-Cola Products From the Shelves of the Park Slope Food Coop". April 27, 2004.
- "Flaum Appetizing Dropped by Prominent Market over Workers' Rights Concerns". Brandworkers International. December 1, 2010.
- Dwyer, Jim (May 14, 2008). "Bottled Water Paradox: Banned, and Required". The New York Times.
- Burke, Daniel (June 5, 2008). "Bottles and Bags, Bans and Boycotts" (PDF). Linewaiters' Gazette.
- Gersten, Lana. Food Fight: Brooklyn Co-op Mulls Israel Ban. The Jewish Daily Forward. 18 Feb. 2009.
- Kuntzman, Gersh. The Food Co-op is not — repeat not — considering a ban on Israeli products. The Brooklyn Paper.
-  (see page 11).
- "The Linewaiters' Gazette: Letters". Park Slope Food Coop. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- "The July GM: Debating a Boycott" (PDF). Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- Chi'en, Arthur (March 27, 2012). "Park Slope Food Co-op Votes Against Boycott Of Israeli Products". WPIX. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- "Slope Food Coop Votes — in Fort Greene! — Against Israel Ban". The Local – Fort-Greene Blog. March 27, 2012. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- Semple, Kirk; Kuntzman, Kersh (March 27, 2012). "Food Co-op Rejects Effort to Boycott Israeli-Made Products". The New York Times.
- Brown, Stephen (April 15, 2010). "Is the Barneys Co-op breaking the law — with its name?". The Brooklyn Paper.
- Forman, Gayle (September 23, 2010). "Coop Fashion Police Cite Barney's Violation" (PDF). Linewaiter's Gazette.
- Ain, Alana Joblin (October 23, 2009). "Flunking Out at the Food Co-op". The New York Times.
- Barry, Dan (December 11, 2004). "At the Food Co-op, Accused of a Little Too Much Cooperation". The New York Times.
- Hartocollois, Anemona; Linderman, Juliet (February 17, 2011). "At a Food Co-op, a Discordant Thought: Nannies Covering Shifts". The New York Times.
- Crewdson, Michael (March 7, 2011). "Praise From Afar for the Park Slope Food Co-op". The New York Times.
- Chaban, Matt. "Soy Vey! Could a Hummus Fight Kill the Co-op?". The New York Observer.