Food cooperatives are a better alternative to corporate grocers

The recent news that Kroger, owner of Mariano’s, is planning to acquire Albertsons, owner of Jewel, is the latest in a decades-long trend of grocery industry consolidation. Business leaders say consolidation produces cost savings for consumers. Whether this is ultimately confirmed, there are obvious concerns that access to our grocery store is being controlled by increasingly larger and fewer entities.

For starters, less diverse supply chains mean bigger problems when disruptions inevitably occur. Local farmers and producers find it harder to get produce to customers, which can force them out of business. Shops in popular neighborhoods may close without notice.

As consumers, we have fewer choices, and corporate grocers may not reflect our values ​​in areas such as sustainability and labor practices.

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Fortunately, there is an alternative to the growing consolidation of grocery stores: food cooperatives.

Food cooperatives are owned by communities and neighborhoods. They are democratically run businesses – one owner, one vote – and cannot be bought or acquired without majority consent. Co-ops elect boards of directors that set corporate priorities and policies.

Food cooperatives allow more of our grocery dollars to circulate locally instead of being extracted from communities; for example, the percentage of income co-ops spend on charitable causes is three times that of conventional stores, and food co-ops spend an average of 38% of their income on local expenses.

Food cooperatives are on the rise in Chicagoland. Chicago Market, a co-op grocery store opening in 2023 in Uptown, is one of an exciting number of community-driven, community-driven startup grocery co-ops (including Wild Onion Market in Rogers Park, Southside Food Co-Op on the South Side and Prairie Food Co-op in Lombard). Dill Pickle in Logan Square and Sugar Beet in Oak Park have been regional food co-ops for several years.

Through food co-ops, we can own and control grocery options that reflect our values; foster strong and diverse regional food systems; and invest our food dollars locally. We generally have little to say about corporate grocery store consolidation trends.

We don’t have to cede our destiny to absentee investors or wealthy elites. We can create alternatives that create shared prosperity with decisions made by those most directly affected. Local food cooperatives seem to me to be such an alternative, through which we could decide – as neighbors and stakeholders – to grow together.

Dan Arnett, Managing Director, Chicago Market

The City must do more to help the homeless

When was the last time your commute took you down Marine Drive? If this was last year, you probably noticed an abundance of tents along the way. From Irving Park Road north to Foster Avenue, tents popped up like a campground. The pandemic and rising rents have caused the number of homeless people to skyrocket.

The city is not doing enough to help provide proper housing for people in need. Winter is coming, and many have only the shelter of a tent. Mayor Lori Lightfoot allocated $10 million for housing in the 2023 budget. That’s not enough to house the homeless and doesn’t create a revenue stream to support transitional housing expenses.

One solution is to follow the lead of the grassroots organization, Bring Chicago Home, which proposed an increase in the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) on homes valued over $1 million, which would result in by an annual flow of income. This additional tax money could be used to maintain transitional housing while building more affordable housing for those in desperate need.

Heather Fink, Downtown

The AIDS garden offers a history lesson to all

I finally visited the AIDS garden at the Belmont Rocks site. As I rode a Divvy bike, I noticed the little signs with QR codes along the walkways. Listening to the diversity of stories they brought to life gave me an intense array of emotions, including pride, grief and hope.

As a young gay man who’s only been in this town a few years, it’s easy to overlook or overlook stories that weren’t thrown at me in school or have no immediacy in my daily life. I am so grateful to those who made this space possible, those who tell these important stories and those who are not there to tell their stories, but who bravely and authentically lived to make this city the refuge it is for me today.

Preserving and sharing underappreciated stories is vital and life-saving, so I hope you’ll engage with the stories at www.aidsgardenchicago.org, even though an in-person lakeside visit is booked for next spring.

Gus Haffner, lake view

Educating the Aging Young Generation

Young people should know that the monthly social security check that older people receive is based on the social security payment. When a person fails to meet their quarterly payment responsibility, the monthly amount is significantly reduced. People may think they automatically get $1,500 a month at age 62, but that’s not true.

A lot of people think working for money under the table is awesome, until they find out they’re only getting about $500 a month if they haven’t paid taxes for all the periods. A social security education course should be taught to all high school students so that they understand social security and medicare for their own future.

Mike Zaczek, Orland Park

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