Web Exclusive #3: “Independent Grocers, Vulnerable Residents, and Community Coalitions: We’re All Essential!”

*For our recently published special issue, “Food in the Time of COVID-19”, we received more submissions than we could accommodate in the print version of the issue, so the following article forms part of a series of submissions which will be published as Web Exclusives which speak to the theme of Gastronomica 20.3.

By Alex B. Hill

May 15, 2020: Detroit, Michigan

FIGURE 1. Detroit grocery landscape during COVID-19.
COURTESY OF ALEX B. HILL, DETROIT FOOD MAP INITIATIVE

Food is a human right. Food is a privilege. Many Detroiters lack both.

Sitting with community members in the sweltering and sticky basement of an Eastside church in the summer of 2012 to discuss community-grocer relations, I never would have expected our conversations would set us up to lead the city government’s comprehensive response to local food retailers during the coronavirus pandemic.

In early March 2020, the food council executive director asked how we, a local grocery workgroup, could, “help grocery stores and other critical businesses to operate more safely at this time.” Our small band of non-profit, university, and local government members convened by the local food council had now become a critical connection to the local grocers. We pivoted quickly from our regular discussions on store assessments to how and where we could find masks, gloves, and informational signage to help stores better serve their customers and protect their staff.

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Web Exclusive #1: “COVID-19 Inspires a Cooperative CSA”

*For our recently published special issue, “Food in the Time of COVID-19”, we received more submissions than we could accommodate in the print version of the issue, so the following article forms part of a series of submissions which will be published as Web Exclusives which speak to the theme of Gastronomica 20.3.

By Angela Babb and Megan Betz

April 25, 2020: Bloomington, Indiana

In January 2020, the People’s Cooperative Market (PCM) formed in response to a crisis of white supremacy in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana. In 2019, vendors at the city-run farmers’ market were identified as recruiters for a white nationalist hate group, resulting in rising tension between anti-racist activists, far-right extremists, and the city government, who supported the vendor’s right to free speech and access to the market. The city sought a resolution to keep these vendors in the market, adding barricades and increased police presence. The result was a heightened sense of threatened safety, making explicit the long-standing sense of othering experienced by marginalized populations attending the market (Wu 2019). When the city voted in January to continue running the market, and again included these self-described Identitarians as vendors, a group of 15 women, approximately half of whom were Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC), convened to develop a safe and inclusive alternative market.

Five farmers, four activists, three food business owners, and three scholars came together to form what is now called the People’s Cooperative Market. Organized around the need for a safe and inclusive market for local food, we started a cooperative and gathered weekly to develop our vision, mission, and goals. We articulated values to define our cooperative market, centering on equitable access to locally grown food, restorative justice and anti-racist practice, collective values shared by our vendors and partners, and meaningful collaboration (People’s Cooperative Market 2020).

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