Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fourth Street Food Co-op: NYC's best natural market

If you live in New York City, one place I cannot recommend highly enough is the Fourth Street Food Co-op on 4th street between 2nd and 3rd avenues. Everything sold there is organic, yet the prices are astonishingly low. Why? Because a co-op, by nature, is run by volunteers who also shop there, and thus, the overhead is very low and the members, who are the only "owners," are deciding the prices, not some corporate hierarchy which is out for profit. This co-op is unique in a few ways:

#1 It claims to be the only co-op in NYC which actually does not have ANY paid staff, hence the extremely low prices.
#2 It is open to members and non-members alike, so you need not commit to volunteering to shop there. However, if you have 2.5 hours a week to spare, you can become a working member and get 20 percent off already reasonable prices. Due to my busy schedule and the long commute from the Bronx, I decided on a non-working membership, which costs $25 annually and brings me an 8 percent discount.
#3 Virtually nothing is prepackaged. The dry goods such as rice and beans are in bulk bins-- you can bring a container from home (which is what I do to reduce waste) or purchase one there for about a quarter, and then your food is sold by weight after they deduct the weight of the container. When I am consistently shopping at the co-op and composting (working members may also drop off their compost at the store), I have almost nothing in my trash, which feels great.
#4 Not only is almost everything organic, local, and in the case of produce, seasonal, the co-op members have also researched each company they receive goods from down to the shareholders, and only do business with ethical companies which treat the Earth and the workers humanely and fairly. There is a list posted in the store with a number of well-known "organic" brands they do NOT do business with because they are actually owned by moguls such as Kraft and Pepsico.

The co-op sells dry goods and baking supplies, produce, a few organic dairy items from local farms, non-dairy milks and yogurts, spices, tea, fair-trade coffee and chocolate, soaps and cleaning supplies, a few packaged goods such as ketchup and salad dressing, local tofu, tempeh, oils, and the occasional treat such as tofu hot dogs. I find it to be well worth the trip from the Bronx (I either bring a rolling suitcase or my husband to schlepp the stuff back), and am thrilled to have a place to shop which not only meets my health standards and my budget, but also completely meets my standards for ethical consumerism, which is just as important to me as health.

For more information on co-ops and to find one near you, click here.
There are several in Brooklyn (sadly my favorite one on earth in the South Bronx is now closed), and the website above has a link to locating co-ops all over the country. Food justice now!!


  1. Jessica I agree it is a shame about South Bronx co-op closing. Meanwhile, as a member of FSFC, it is very gratifying to hear that you are willing to make the trek downtown. A couple of notes--we are called 4th Street Food Co-op which is correct in your title but mistakenly id'd as Lower East Side Food Co-op in the 1st sentence. Also, working members get 20% off purchases, not 15%. Thanks again for the vote of confidence and lovely review!

  2. Thanks, Jill! I will make the edits.