Q: We haven’t seen spinach dip in a couple of weeks, and it’s a staple in our house. Can we find out why it’s unavailable? Will it be back? Thanks!
A: Thanks for writing in. We did pull this item from our selection at Willy West due to a steady pattern of losses. It’s an unfortunate fact of food service that, with high perishability being a factor, we have to be very cautious on this front. It is available in our East store and as a pre-order item in 5-lb. batches (it does freeze well). Hope this helps. -Josh Perkins, Prepared Foods Director
Food Bar Menu
Q: Dear Deli, please have a menu for your food bar. What’s the special feature for the day. I saw taco Tuesday theme, but no sour cream and a tiny spoonful of guacamole. Where is the beans too. Kinda silly! Thanks.
A: Our hot bar menu is posted online. Sorry you found our prep a little run-down when you visited us. I’ll bring this to the attention of our West Deli manager. Best, Josh Perkins, Prepared Foods Director
Q: I live in Sauk Prairie. I’ve been in the Madison area for a number of years and a Cooperative member for about 3-4. Do you ever look into expanding into smaller markets? I ask for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m deeply involved with some local organizations here in town and there has been much discussion about economic development in our area. Our population, which is around 7300 in town not including outside townships, is seeing a fair amount of building and growth as Sauk Prairie is becoming the “closest small town to Madison.” We’ve also seen some large commitments from a new hospital to the passing of our school referendum and Capital Brewery’s plans to locate their bottling facility here. So I think and discuss and hear a lot about businesses moving to town and selfishly, when our local grocers offer a small organic section, I wonder about a cooperative moving here. Secondly, I grew up in a town with a small cooperative that was quite successful—Ashland Wisconsin’s Chequamegon Food Coop, which recently just had a large expansion (your hometown always gets cooler after you leave). So, seeing our growing town and growing up with a fantastic cooperative, I ask the board—do you ever think about expanding into smaller markets? What would you need to do this? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for all you do.
A: Thanks for your interest in Willy Street Co-op. We are currently looking at expansion, and we just recently received the go-ahead from a vote of our Ownership to consider a third store. All comments regarding where another store could be located are always passed on to our General Manager to share with the Board and the task force charged with reviewing potential locations. I am passing on yours right now for consideration. As you can imagine there are a number of people who have asked us to locate a Willy Street Co-op in their neighborhood or their community.
We are not like other grocers, in the sense that we plan expansion slowly and collaboratively with the guidance of our Owners. In our forty years of existence, we have only expanded to include a Production Kitchen and one other store. Any time we are considering expansion, or spending more than 10% of our assets on a capital expenditure, we turn to our Owners for their consent.
As we do expand slowly, and cannot possibly locate everywhere that wants a co-op, I would encourage you to consider another option: when you are thinking about a “cooperative moving here,” also think about starting a cooperative by and for your community. Co-ops traditionally are started by neighbors to meet the needs of the community. That’s how we started as a buyer’s club forty years ago—the Marquette Neighborhood needed a place to get the food they wanted and wanted to get it ontheir own terms. If this is of interest to you, let us know and we can help get you started talking to the right people in the cooperative grocer world to make that happen. Unlike other grocers, when we hear about other communities starting their own co-ops and taking their food and economics into their own hands, we want to help and have a tradition of doing so. We believe in a diverse economy that serves the needs of the many, that’s what cooperatives are all about. -Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services
Q: Hi I just watched the movie Fed Up about sugar last night. Highly recommend it. But here is the rub. I looked at many of your tomato sauces and many of them have sugar in them. I was wondering if you would consider a special label for items that are prepackaged and free of all forms ofsugar including dextrose, cane sugar, corn syrup, etc. This would help educate us and make quick shopping healthier. I know I don’t need any sugar sneaking in through processed products and I don’t always have time to shop reflectively or cook from scratch. Thanks.
A: Thanks for the email. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve heard it’s great. Given that manufacturers often change their recipes and we have very limited space for signage on our shelves, coming up with a labeling system like you describe would be very difficult for us. There are many things we’d love to call out about our products, such as gluten-free, sugar-free, GMO-free, and more, and unfortunately we don’t have the resources to track them all on all of the thousands of products we carry. I wish we could. At this point, your best bet is to continue to read labels and check for added sugar. Best Regards, Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director
Q: For many years I have contributed to Community Shares through the CHIP program at Willy Street Co-op. It has recently come to my attention that Community Shares gives money to Nuestro Mundo, Inc., yet does nothing for Madison Public Schools. I could go on at great length about how wrong this is, but suffice it to say that I find it reprehensible to only give support to a charter school while our public schools are suffering from constant budget cuts. Despite the other good things that Community Shares is doing, I will no longer contribute to Community Shares as long as this situation continues or until I find out that my understanding of the distribution of funds is erroneous.
P.S. If you would like more information about how charter schools are hurting public education, let me know and I would be happy to share it with you.
A: Thanks for writing and sharing your concerns. CHIP is a partnership Willy Street Co-op has with Community Shares of Wisconsin, which is a 501(c)3 that acts as a funding umbrella for a wide variety of nonprofits. It is entirely its own entity, and participating in CHIP at the registers is voluntary. We do not have any influence over the organizations that Community Shares of Wisconsin supports aside from passing on communication like yours to them for their feedback and for a response. Here is what Moira Urich of Community Shares had to say:
“Many people might think of non-instrumentality charter schools (private charter schools) when they hear the term ‘charter school,’ but Nuestro Mundo Inc. funds Nuestro Mundo, which is an instrumentality charter school, meaning that it is a public school. As a public charter school, Nuestro Mundo School (NMS) is an open public school, funded by the Madison School District. NMS must abide by the school district standards and policies as related to hiring, standardized testing, and student performance across all domains. As a public school, it cannot select its students as some private charters do; NMS accepts children who have physical or learning disabilities. However as a dual-language immersion school, NMS may introduce elements around cultural competency and sensitivity through its curriculum which is offered in both English and Spanish. NMS teachers not only have to have the state teaching license, they also must have bilingual certification. The “charter” aspect of this public school means that NMS is a place where the district can try out and evaluate various types of curriculum and different interventions to see if they should be applied more broadly, so the instructors can be a bit more innovative when introducing curriculum. In addition, NMS is a community school, meaning that it brings in community expertise as part of its curriculum and also takes children out into the community for part of their instruction. Community Shares of Wisconsin is a fundraising umbrella for nonprofits working towards environmental protection and social justice, and as part ofthe latter point, CSW supports greater cultural competence, sensitivity, and understanding.” Please let me know if I may assist you further. -Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services