Making Choices in a Complex Food System

Dear Co-op Members,

A few days ago, I was standing outside the Hanover store with two of my colleagues, both fellow Co-op members. As we talked, one member pulled out a mobile phone and began looking for a car service, one that’s been beset by controversy lately. The other member pointed out the company’s less-than-honorable reputation, and suggested alternatives. What followed was an inspired, congenial conversation that served as a model of how people can share information and help one other to make informed decisions.

I’ve written before on the subject of choice, and how respecting our shoppers’ decisions is central to our approach. Our Co-op has long believed in the power of choice, information, and education. Our philosophy is descriptive, rather than prescriptive. We don’t tell our members and shoppers what we think they should do, or which products we think they should buy. We give people information to help them make informed decisions. Our blogs, e-news, website, and social media channels are filled with information about the food industry and the products we carry.

Why do we do this? Because we should all know more about the food we eat. The food industry is complex and becoming even more so. Even at a food co-op, where standards are high, stores may still contain products that have layer upon layer of facts, data, history and their stories. And the movements revered and touted by cooperatives—organic, local, natural, fair trade, and so on—are sadly not always immune to socio-economic injustice and abuse, either.

We can’t make our food system perfect, but we can educate people about it and respect everyone’s right to choose as they see fit. And because co-ops are member-owned, members have the option—even a responsibility—to get involved and participate in the education process. This benefits all members and the communities we serve. Empowering people to make conscientious decisions is at the heart of the cooperative movement.

Want to get involved? Have questions or feedback? We’d be happy to talk to you about it. Reach out to me anytime. My door is always open to you.

—Ed Fox


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Ed Fox

Ed Fox is the Co-op General Manager. To contact, email

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