Affordable Food Should Also Be a Co-op Value

I was disappointed by the editorial statements regarding the concern over pricing last month, particularly Royer Smith’s piece, which concluded, “We charge more because our values require it. We‘re on a mission that we should be proud of.”

It seems to me that some of the values that many of us hope motivate the Co-op are actually dependent on price. For example:

Sustainability: For a food practice to be sustainable, it has to be within reach of the population as a whole. 

Accessibility and inclusion: Why should financial impairment be any less important than any other kind?

Diversity: If Weavers Way signals that it’s priced for customers at a certain financial level, customers for whom cost matters will get the message and go elsewhere. Is that how we want our membership to develop? 

There’s no simple resolution to all this: We want workers to be paid well across the supply chain, and we want to provide good products at prices that working people can afford. Wise people of good will may come to different conclusions as to how to resolve those tensions, and no answer will satisfy everyone. That’s fine.

What isn’t fine is an attitude that shames people because of their concern about prices, suggesting that those of us who need to pay attention to our expenses and who hope that the — no, our — Co-op should be responsive to that concern are somehow less ethical than the noble folk who make the decisions for us. 

— Joshua Gutoff