How Does that Brand of Applesauce End Up on the Shelf Anyway?
You make decisions all the time as you move from “I’m hungry” to eating a meal. You decide to go shopping for ingredients at Willy Street Co-op because you appreciate our attention to customer service, our commitment to locally produced food, our educational opportunities, and our vetting of the items that end up in your basket for their nutritional and ecological value. You decide to buy avocados to make guacamole because they are on sale and look amazing. You decide to eat all that guacamole in one sitting because it is too delicious to stop.
In our Co-op, there are clear roles for the Board of Directors, the management team, the staff, and you—the Owner and shopper—in making decisions about what we sell, how we sell it, the space where it is sold and the educational opportunities provided to learn more about our products.
Step One: Setting guiding policies
The Board of Directors is a Policy Governance Board—we set and approve the policies which guide Co-op decision-making. There are two types of policies—Ends and GM Limitations. Ends policies define our goals—what do we, as a Co-op, want to see done in regards to upholding the cooperative principles, how do we want Willy Street Co-op to interact with and support our community, and how do we want Willy Street Co-op to grow and develop. For example, Policy A3 states as a goal that the Willy Street Co-op will “Foster local production of goods.” We endeavor to have a wide array of products that are produced locally, whether grown in local farms, or made in local facilities, or made of products grown locally.
Step Two: Delegating authority
GM Limitations policies are how the Board delegates to the staff the day-to-day decision making. In general, the authority delegated to the staff is very broad. The Board dips our toes into the workings of the Co-op once a month at Board meetings, and a few other hours during committee meetings or at events. But the staff are involved in all things cooperative every single day—they have work plans and goals to guide the day to day work of running a grocery store.
Step Three: Staff plans and implementation
Each department in the Co-op has key staff who are responsible for tracking sales, researching new items to bring into the Co-op and placing regular orders for goods to keep the shelves stocked. They select products that meet the guiding principles and goals established by the Ends policies. This includes seeking out new local producers and encouraging them to sell their products to us, to meet the goal stated above.
Step Four: Owner input
Part of the information staff gathers to make decisions about adding new items comes from you, the shopper. Your request for organic applesauce is taken in online or via the comment cards and given to the Purchasing Manager. That person will do some research to discover the availability of a product that matches your request, and to determine if the product is made in a way and with ingredients that uphold our cooperative values.
These levels of decision making result in products like Porchlight Organic Applesauce being available for you to purchase—a product that is made locally from organic ingredients. The thought and research that went into selecting this item also goes into every product selection we make, from tomatoes to lip balm.
On our new website, you can search for many of our products (full list coming soon) that are 100% locally sourced, or that are certified organic, or other criteria that are important to you. This is just another way that the Co-op works to provide you the information you need to make your personal decisions about what food to buy and eat.