Food For All, the Co-op’s discount program to make healthy eating more affordable for people who access government assistance, is expanding its reach, including, for the first time, members who collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Social Security Insurance (SSI) and/or military disability.
Inagurated in 2015, Food For All offers participants 10% off nearly all Weavers Way purchases, along with a reduced yearly membership equity investment of $5 instead of the usual $30. (The 10% can be combined with the 5% Working Member discount for a total of 15%.) Participation requires completing a simple one-page application, and for those who are not already members, joining the Co-op. All discounts are taken discreetly at the cash registers where electronic benefits are accepted.
As of April, Food For All had enrolled 142 member families who receive food stamps (SNAP), cash assistance (TANF), the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and/or Medicaid.
The program is part of the Co-op’s response to criticism that the “Good Food” movement is exclusive and elitist, with high prices preventing low-income families from taking part.
Food Justice Committee member Rachel Millenbach championed the FFA expansion, conducting interviews that showed the lengths Co-op neighbors with chronic health issues go to to access benefits such as SSDI, SSI or military disability. Last December, Millenbach presented her proposal to expand the FFA program to the Food Justice Committee.
The presentation profiled several people including a Northwest Philadelphia resident who, due to mobility challenges caused by an adverse reaction to the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, switched to a vegan diet to avoid meat and dairy containing trace chemicals. Another resident lives with chronic fatigue syndrome – her limited budget keeps her from buying healthy food.
Both had heard of Weavers Way, but also that it was expensive so they did not shop here. This perception, and reality, is not theirs alone, Millenbach pointed out.
As a result of Millenbach’s advocacy, the Food Justice Committee unanimously voted to formally request that the program be expanded. Weavers Way General Manager Jon Roesser took the question to the Co-op’s leadership team who responded favorably and agreed to add the three additional programs for FFA eligibility.
But we need your help. Our goal is to spread the word about this initiative to promote food equity within the Co-op itself. Tell your neighbors, family and friends. Take an updated flyer to your faith-based organization or workplace. There’s ongoing community outreach where we could use helping hands as well.
Just last month, Shaline Webb, Miriam Kahn and I collaborated on a workshop called “Finding Bargains in Co-op Bulk Bins” as part of the Good Food for All conference at the Free Library of Philadelphia. And there are a number of other exciting events coming up this summer. So stay tuned.
Amelia Duffy-Tumasz chairs the Food Justice Committee.