Support Your Community this Holiday Season through Double Dollars, Pantries of Plenty and the Access Discount Program

 

It’s time for the winter holidays, which are a great time to consider what we do as individuals and cooperatively for our families, neighbors and communities. Your cooperative has made it our ends to be at the forefront of a cooperative and just society by nourishing and enriching our community, contributing to a robust local economy built on equitable relationships, and cultivating respect, generosity, and authenticity in what we do. As we think about how we will share our dining tables with each other this holiday season, let’s think about how we can continue to make space at the community table for everyone. 

Double Dollars is Back!

On October 23 we brought back Double Dollars for its third season. Every Tuesday between now and March 13, customers who use their FoodShare/QUEST (SNAP) benefits when they shop will be eligible to receive Double Dollars vouchers to shop at the Co-op for every $5 they spend on their EBT card, up to $20. The vouchers can be used at any Co-op retail location, any day of the week, during business hours from October through May. 

Double Dollars Expands Eligible Items, Removes Yearly Expiration Date

This year, Double Dollars can be spent on more than only items in our Produce department. Now, Double Dollars are also good for canned and frozen fruits, vegetables and legumes, as well as seeds and seedlings for edible plants to grow in your garden. These changes were made based on customer input and we hope that being able to use Double Dollars for more fruit and vegetable items makes Double Dollars even more useful for customers benefiting from the program.

We also removed the yearly expiration date from the Double Dollars vouchers this year. Vouchers will now be good each year from October through May, while funds last. That means that if you have Double Dollars vouchers at the end of this May that you were not able to spend, you can keep those Double Dollars until October, and then use them during the next Co-op Double Dollars season. This brings the Co-op’s program in line with the Farmers’ Market Double Dollars program, and makes it even easier for customers to spend all the Double Dollars available to them.

Double Dollars is Possible Because of You!

Double Dollars is a program we participate in through a partnership with Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, the City of Madison, and Public Health Madison and Dane County. Double Dollars are available year-round, from October to May at the Co-op, and from June to November at participating local farmers’ markets. The vouchers are primarily funded through the Co-op’s Double Dollars Fund where you can either participate by choosing $1, $5, $10, or $25 Double Dollars Fund scan cards at the cash registers to add a cash donation to your receipt at check out, or by simply reusing bags when you shop at the Co-op. When you bring reusable bags for your shopping trip, we’ll save 10¢ to contribute to the fund, and when you reuse disposable bags for shopping, we’ll save 5¢ to contribute to the fund. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, your cash donations and the contribution the Co-op was able to make because you reused bags totaled $65,791, and since we started raising money in April 2017 for the program the Co-op has provided $103,143 for Double Dollars at the Co-op and participating farmers’ markets. 

Thank you for your support! Special thanks to our other private funders as well: Madison Area Chefs’ Network and Healthy Dane Funders. We are thrilled to bring Double Dollars back for its third Co-op season and to be part of making the program at the farmers’ markets possible. 

Double Dollars Fund Holiday Pantries of Plenty Campaign: Support Double Dollars, Support Local Food Pantries

 

Now is a great time to make cash donations to the Double Dollars Fund and reuse bags! All November and December we’ll be matching your cash donations and bag reuse dollar for dollar and dime for dime. When you make a cash donation or reuse bags to support Double Dollars, we will match up to $10,000 of your donations by providing Pantries of Plenty to our six neighborhood food pantries: Bread of Life Food Pantry, Goodman Community Center Fitz Food Pantry, Lussier Community Education Center, Middleton Outreach Ministry, The River Food Pantry and Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. The match will be split six ways to each food pantry and provided in Co-op gift cards to provide fresh items that are harder to come by in the winter season. 

The Pantries of Plenty Double Dollars Match is made possible through abandoned and donated Owner equity. When Owners leave the Co-op, their equity invested belongs to them and they are given the option to have their equity refunded or to donate it to use for charitable purposes such as this match and the Community Reinvestment Fund grants. Please join us in celebrating the generosity of our past Owners by participating in the Pantries of Plenty Double Dollars Match this holiday season. 

Access Discount Review Committee Seeking Owners to Participate

The Access Discount is an Owner benefit for those who demonstrate that they have a financial need. When Owners enroll in the Access Discount Program, they receive 10% off groceries for a year, renewable annually. We review the Access Discount Program and its qualifiers every two years. The previous committee convened two years ago, in FY 2017. Assessing the program is important to ensure that our qualifiers align with changes to public and private benefit programs, to review whether everyone in our community feels like they can both shop and join the Co-op, and to make the Access Discount Program a continued resource for preventing food insecurity in our community. 

The Co-op seeks one-to-two Owners enrolled in the Co-op’s Access Discount Program and/or with a working background in food accessibility to serve a one-year term on our Access Discount Review Committee. A standing general management committee comprised of the Director of Cooperative Services, the Director of Finance (or an appointee from the Finance Department), the Owner Records Administrator, a rotating appointee from the Board of Directors and one-to-two rotating Owners-At-Large will review the program goals and public benefits that qualify Owners to participate on a biennial basis. One of the Owners-At-Large who participated in FY 2017 has already accepted our invitation to join the committee again. Owners interested in a seat are encouraged to apply by submitting a letter to ora@willystreet.coop with your Owner number and a personal statement explaining your experience and why you would like to be considered as a candidate for the committee by November 30, 2018. The bulk of the committee work for this year’s term will be completed between January and March 2019.

Gratitude For a Great West Expansion

On a personal note, I was appointed the project manager for the recently completed West Expansion this past January and could not be more thrilled to be part of its success. Your feedback about what improvements were needed at West through comments and focus groups, your voting in favor of taking advantage of this rare expansion opportunity, your purchases of Owner Bonds, your patience as we shuffled things around the store and construction crews made all the changes; all these things are what made the expansion possible. Equally as important, Co-op employees, especially those working at West and those on the project team day-in and day-out, were amazing to work with: creative, patient, flexible, mindful, collaborative, friendly, humorous, generous, and professional. I couldn’t have asked for a better team, or better Owners to cooperate with these past 10 months, and we are so proud of what we have been able to do together to make the West part of our Co-op even more valuable to our entire community. Special thanks, also, to the Co-op Services department for taking on extra responsibilities alongside me, and to Katie O’Connell-Jones, Robert Halstead and George Reistad from the City of Madison for writing Co-op Services News columns throughout the summer and early fall. I enjoyed hearing your voices on these pages, and sharing this space is something I plan to continue. 

Thank You for Continuing to Support Your Community

Whether you participate in Double Dollars and provide us with the data and feedback to make improvements when possible, you donate cash to the Double Dollars fund, or you reuse bags to help us support the program… whether you participate in committees like the Access Discount Review Committee or the West expansion focus groups, or give the Co-op bonds or your equity when you leave your Co-op behind… there are all kinds of ways that you make a difference when you shop at and participate in your Co-op. Whatever holidays you celebrate, or however you express your gratitude and generosity, we look forward to supporting you and the community at your dinner tables this winter season. Thank you for your continued support at the Co-op and beyond. We appreciate you and all of your contributions. 

Richard Levinestelios