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.
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!!