Food, Community & Identity

I was sitting in the cafe of the co-op when I noticed that in every direction I looked I saw kids and families. I was getting excited to see my own family when suddenly, I felt a jolt of elation followed by an intense feeling of sorrow. I realized in less than a month I’d be back home in Chicago, shopping at the chain supermarket that my parents go to. My first thought: I’m going to miss the co-op immensely.

The space of the co-op is unique and unlike your typical grocery store. You don’t just shop at City Market; you’re part of a community here. The shoppers, employees and volunteers work together 24-7 to support and strengthen the local economy and contribute to a more just and sustainable food system for Vermont. I love seeing the faces of people that enter City Market for the first time. Watching their jaws drop as they stare in astoundment at the bulk department or at the labeling system in the produce department. There is a sense of collective consciousness that is evident and hard to miss and elicits a sense of community, solidarity, innovation and a feeling of being part of something larger. All of the employees that i’ve talked to are passionate about their job and as a result, bring an intensity and enthusiasm to their work that I haven’t seen elsewhere. According to Craig Wilkens,

the “where” of of our sensory experience in the world have a profound influence on our ability to create individual and collective identities- to become, know and name who we are– premaritally because “space comprises the social arena in which individuals reproduce or challenge their experiential boundaries of action and interaction”.

In other words, identity is produced in and through our relation to space. I began to wonder if in some small way, my experiences at City Market had influenced my identify. If so, how?

I realized the wide-selection of Vermont made products; abundance of fresh, organic options; friendly employees and volunteers; and intimate, communal vibe at City Market truly has helped shaped my individual and collective food identity (how I interact with others in a food related context, how I relate to food itself in a co-op situation) For example, prior to shopping at the co-op I never thought I’d know the farmers who make my cheese and bread. Now that I do, I realize how comforting and reassuring this is. Being a co-op member has also allowed me to contribute to a larger collective identity that supports a local, sustainable food system. Furthermore, being a Member Worker has brought an unanticipated source of pleasure to my life and added to my self-definition. It’s introduced me to new people with a similar interests and passions (mostly for food, cooking and health) 🙂

One thing’s for sure, I will definitely miss the co-op this summer. What about you guys, how does your local grocery store, farmers market or co-op create community? If it doesn’t, why do you think this is?

FN 4/16

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2 Comments on “Food, Community & Identity”

  1. April 17, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    It’s so wonderful you have a place like this! I love that it was able to shape your food identity and provide you with a passion for local, sustainable food sources. I hope someday everyone will know where their food comes from!

  2. April 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    I don’t belong to a coop (there isn’t one in my town and honestly I probably would not have time to do it at this point in my life even if there were) but agree with your points. I think it is also possible to connect with local farmers and producers directly via farmers markets and CSAs – something that I love and plan to continue doing. I like the CSA concept a lot because even one individual or one family can help to ensure stability for a local farm (and the food is great, too!)

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