Friday, November 12, 2010

Grow Community. Shop Co-op. From guest blogger Tiffany Tyler

Tiffany is a Houston native, Heights resident, involved community member, active parent and Chair of the Board of Directors of Central City Co-Op. November is National Co-operative Month and Central City needs community support this month and every month to continue offering healthy, natural and local foods to area families. Read on:

Did you know that November is National Co-operative Month? Co-ops bring goods and services to the community at reduced costs through the pooling of resources and collaborative working by co-op members. Did you know that the Montrose/ Heights area has its own local co-operative for organic and sustainably raised produce? It is the Central City Co-op ( This member-based organization works to support local farmers and community gardens, to educate the public about farming practices and to encourage the consumption of whole, natural foods instead of commercial processed products.

Currently a tenant in Grace Lutheran Church at 2515 Waugh (at Missouri), the Co-op is open each Wednesday 9 am to 6 pm. Farmers and suppliers deliver fresh vegetables each week for the Wednesday market day and the market manager selects the produce each week with an eye to what is the best value for the money, seasonally appropriate local farm offerings and things that taste good.

Shoppers can pre-order a mixed fruit share or mixed produce share (fruit & vegetables) in sizes to suit most needs. Central City also offers a fresh selection of open market items that can be bought directly off the shelf. This includes basic seasonal fruit and vegetables, dry goods including beans, rice and grains, local honey, locally roasted coffee and other items. Additionally the Co-op has an exciting rotation of local vendors who provide prepared foods, eggs, and artisanal gift items each week.

The shopping atmosphere is casual and friendly, with volunteers to help with any questions you have about the produce or how to prepare it, or to distract a child. Shoppers can linger and chat, or do a quick shop and go. There’s no supermarket parking lot to battle, and a cup of locally roasted coffee is available for a few coins tossed in a jar.

Though co-operatives are member-based organizations, Central City welcomes guest shoppers. A day pass is $1, which is waived for the first visit. Annual membership begins at $48, and membership credit may be earned for volunteering at the co-op. Volunteers are always needed in a variety of areas. Through the end of 2010, you may purchase your 2011 membership and get the rest of this year for free!

Central City grows its community through work with local organizations and schools, including the Health and Wellness Committee at Travis Elementary. In the past 3 years, they have donated over $15,000 in local and organic produce to soup kitchens and food pantries in the inner loop area. Members donate time to the Houston Food Policy Workgroup and the Urban Farm Belt Coalition, as well as Urban Harvest.

The Co-op’s work in the community depends on the financial health of the Wednesday market. Like many small businesses, Central City has felt the squeeze of recent economic pressures. Sales have declined in recent months, and the impact has been deep. The co-op needs to sell at least 150 shares each week to meet its financial obligations, and recent weeks have seen the numbers drop below 110. Without the support of the community, Central City will not be able to continue its work. Orders can be placed online each week up until Sunday at 6 pm for pickup on Wednesday, and open market shopping is available on a walk-in basis. Shopping with the Co-op can enrich your diet with whole, sustainably raised food at reasonable prices. Spending time in the Co-op can open your mind and put a smile on your face. Supporting the Co-op with your time and shopping dollars can help grow a healthier community, one avocado at a time.

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