FJC Considers Next Steps to Improve Food for All Program

by 
Eric Borgstrom, Weavers Way Food Justice Committee
Photos by Margaret Shapiro
Miriam Kahn (top) takes ideas from the crowd at the Food Justice Town Hall Jan. 9.

For several months, the Weavers Way Food Justice Committee has explored ideas to improve the Co-op’s Food For All need-based discount program. The FJC established a task force to discern a process for feedback and to plot a way forward, starting with input from FFA participants, Co-op staff, and members.

Beginning in December 2018, the FFA task force interviewed participants to help identify the strengths and weaknesses of the program. To a person, FFA participants are grateful for and rely upon the discount, and agreed that an increased discount would increase their capacity to shop at the Co-op. The interviews also generated practical ideas to aid all shoppers operating on a budget. To date, nearly 10 percent of the 200 total FFA participants have been interviewed, and the interviews are ongoing.

On Jan. 9, the FJC hosted a town hall meeting at Summit Presbyterian Church to inform Co-op members about the elements of the FFA program and measurables for its usage since its 2015 inception. The committee also heard practical ideas that might enhance the effectiveness of the program, and sought to introduce and gauge interest in proposed improvements.

Two principal ideas emerged from the interviews and the town hall to generate the necessary funds to increase the FFA discount. In the Top Off program, a member’s $5.29 bill, for example, would be rounded up to $6, with 71 cents going to a charity or other program. This would have no negative financial impact on Weavers Way and is used by other co-ops, including Mariposa Food Co-op in West Philadelphia. It may be possible for a Co-op member to sign up for a this program for every transaction, or even for non-members to participate.

A second idea is an “opt out” program, in which Co-op members would voluntarily donate their working member or senior discount to help fund charities or other programs. In 2018, the five percent working member discount accounted for $575,000 in total discounts, whereas the 10 percent senior discount totaled $200,000 and the FFA program added up to $50,000.

Weavers Way already has a similar program called High Five, whereby participant shoppers donate five percent of their bill to Food Moxie. In 2019, Weavers Way management is considering expanding this program to permit donations to more local programs, including FFA. We are still engaged in a financial analysis to ascertain what amount would need to be raised to support an increased discount. But if 310, or 10 percent, of the 3,100 Working Member households donated their discount, perhaps sufficient funds would be raised to increase the FFA discount to 15 or 20 percent.

The FJC’s immediate focus is on how to increase the FFA discount, but it also has gathered many ideas to improve the implementation and outreach to increase participation in the program. Once those objectives are achieved, the FJC will engage in targeted outreach to introduce the Co-op and the FFA program to those in our community who may benefit.

If you would be willing to participate in a Top Off or Opt Out program, email foodjustice@weaversway.coop, and include your name and Co-op number. This is not a commitment, but rather a way to gauge interest among our membership. If you’re interested in joining the FJC, we meet on the first Wednesday of each month. All are welcome.