Food Justice Committee Mtg Minutes 5/13/13

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May 13th Food Justice Committee meeting

Agenda Items:
1. Reviewing the survey
2. Updates from Merch re: Eden Soy and establishing connection with FJC

1. Discussion of survey

-Renee: what is the plan for getting the survey out there and for doing data entry? And if we want to use the tabling team, FJC might have to actually do the tabling because the tabling committee is not as robust as it once was. And tabling season ends in October.

-Question of doing the survey at the church outreach that we have been talking about for months.Christina went to the Pentacostal church on Bedford and Putnam, and so she is going to take the June 1st flyer and some other info to that church.

-Locations to distribute the survey: Putnam Triangle & tenants day at housing authority

[discussion cut short because Merch folks arrived and that was the top priority for the meeting]

Action elements for the Survey: David, Ankit, Susanne will solicit more feedback using the list serv and get the survey ready for June 1st event.

2. Discussion with April and John from Merch committee

April and john here from merch. They have both been active members of merch since it was a buying club. They were working with the coop for a year before the buying club started actually

Floor opened up for disscussion:

-April: the merch committee is pretty much about sustaining the coop. None of them are professional grocers, so it is all happening in a process, but they are finding that buyers are getting burnt out.

-There are 13 to 15 companies that all supply the food in the store, which is somewhat seasonal, but generally speaking we have a core of buyers who have been working with the same company for at least six months. But they want to have more buyers in order to avoid burnout and get a little bit more astute with buying.

-The feedback that they took from the survey was that people were concerned about price.

-Vendors that they worked with from the beginning, Park Slope Food Coop has been very helpful in finding vendors, industry references have been helpful also.

-Susanne: asks how the products that are chosen are chosen.

Answer: when you start the buying club you are constrained by the qualities of the store such as the sq. footage and the organization's credit and so forth.

-David: how do the individual products relate to the distributors that carry large quantities of products, so for example what if you don't buy a product from a distributor?

Answer: Generally, it’s not very big deal for the distributors because they have a huge business and not purchasing one product does not generally harm them because we're just too small of an account.

-John: the merch committee is under water because it takes an intense amount of work, and they can’t vet every single product before buying. We don’t have the person power to vet all these products.

-Malory: it seems that there’s an issue here

-April: It’s not our job, because we are subscribing to the coop’s principles. It’s really the coop's issue. It’s really an identity issue, but merch has nothing to do with it.

-Suzanne: we’ve talked about what merch is doing but this is not our intention to put people in a defensive position.

-Christine: The PSFC has a boycott policy which is that you bring it to a GM and it has to be voted on and then it either passes or doesn’t pass

-Merch: developing a procedural mechanism for dealing with this would be important.

-Kassy says that there are groups and businesses out there that do this research and so we can rely on them. FJC can work pretty easily with merch, especially working with Brooklyn Food Coalition, and Food Workers Alliance.

-Christine: We should have a liasion with merch, because there’s clearly very specific elements of each product by what it means with each distributor.

-Renee: Sounds like food justice can fit in by coming up with a purchasing code of conduct.

-John: Redraft the buying principles, take a stab at that. But from doing a lot of buying, but having done the work of buying, principles that are very specific are a real challenge!

-Renee: Maybe making buying principles that are more specific is not realistic, maybe focusing on it from the back end is going to be more practical than the front end.

-April: giving us a watch list of products is good, making a buying guide is good, making a procedure in place, these are all good.

-Amy: I think we all agree.

-John: Breaking down the Eden issue. They sell a can of beans, and we can always find a different one. But in terms of soy milk, we weren’t originally carrying them, but it was another national brand, but other merch members noticed that there were enough voices of people asking for it that they then went ahead and ordered, started carrying it, it was a better price point, and we started selling a lot of it. We don’t have a cheaper version in our supplier with our buying power,

-Kassy: maybe the buying principles need to define what workers’ rights mean

-Suzanne: four things that come to mind from this conversation about cooperation between merch and food justice:

  1. having floaters between the two committees

  2. creating a procedure whereby the coop will make decisions about boycotts

  3. come up with a watch list of products

  4. redrafting or specifying the buying principles *even if it’s not realistic

-Malory: can we get clarification on the watch list?

-April: just thinking about being abreast of things that are happening in the market from processing issues, to BPA free and so forth, so merch can say that we’re going after a vender and then food justice follow up with it, and in return you can give us feedback on that vendor.

-John’s question: If we float you a vendor, do you have a procedure right now – answer NO. And John brings up the issue of affordability. Merch struggles with the question of the artisanal, because there are local people who make things like expensive products.

-April: this food coop has an identity problem – and for so many people it’s a vanity project to be a part of it.

-Kassy brings up the issue of WICK and all the thorny issues, about purchasing or at least focusing on the issues for low income people, such that in order to qualify to host the WICK program you have to carry a bunch of products that are the lowest end versions. And John and April add you have to have certain quantities of milk and so forth.

-John offers to be the go-between with merch

-Christine: asks is the supplier list going on the website?

[more discussion ensued that I missed – sorry.]

Follow up tasks

Suzanne is making a list of products that are already in the store.

Malory is going to set up a research time to cover some of those products so we can begin to have the capacity to give merch watch lists and product research.

Ankit and potentially Kareem will work on procedural mechanism for boycotts.

David to email Renee and CC Ankit about survey

The survey folks will be soliciting feedback hard for the next week and a half about the survey