Sunday, May 12, 2013

Does Food Coop Membership Determine Your Politics?

Sometimes they say "The Food Coop is inherently political."  Sometimes they say "Food is inherently political."  They will say it as a justification for promoting and seeking Coop endorsement of a particular cause.

But is such a statement true? Indeed, does it even have any meaning?

The definition of inherent: "Existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute."

The definition of political: "Of or relating to the ideas or strategies of a particular party or group in politics. Having or influenced by partisan interests."

Can food have a partisan interest?  No.  Food is an essential human need.

How about the Food Coop?  Well, it might have a partisan interest regarding things directly related to its operation, such as the traffic on Union Street.  But is a diverse Coop membership not entitled to a diversity of views and allegiances?  If the Coop is "political," then exactly which politics must it support?

The Park Slope Food Coop makes high quality food available at lower prices to anyone who is willing to put in about 30 hours of a labor a year.  It also strives to purchase from local farmers and producers.   And it tries to use and encourage the use of the most environmentally friendly practices.

But here comes the jump in logic.  Because the Food Coop does all these things, is it also obligated to lend support to any cause that a member claims is consistent with the Coop's mission?  The promoters of various causes would say "yes."

Later today, Sunday, the Food Coop is hosting an event titled "You and Your Food" described as:
The Coop is a great place for delicious, inexpensive food, and it’s also where we can talk about the politics behind what we eat. Food sovereignty, environmental racism, water supply threats, labor struggles, urban agriculture initiatives, geopolitical issues, international solidarity—these forces are inevitably mixed into what we put on our plates. What are our opportunities and responsibilities as New Yorkers, as consumers, and as Coop members? Come participate in a lively and diverse discussion.
Are they to tell us we have responsibilities beyond our monthly work contribution to support their particular causes because we are Coop members and they say so?

There are differences between an interest, a privilege, a right and an obligation.  Anyone can have an interest in using the Coop to promote a particular cause.  However, it is a privilege, not a right to do so. The Coop is not obligated to provide its support.  It is not even obligated to provide a platform.  And certainly the membership is not obligated to agree.

Should the Coop allow the promotion of any cause by any member?  Or should it have some criteria before allowing the use of its facilities?

Tonight's program will include an anti-fracking advocate, a labor advocate, an urban farming advocate  and a sustainable food advocate.  They will be sharing the panel with one of the Coop's BDS activists.  The wording of the program implies the mutual endorsements of all parties.

BDS is not pro-peace.   BDS is a racist movement that denies self-determination to the Jewish people.  BDS provides support and coverage to terrorists.  BDS is hypocritical in its very essence, selectively ignoring human rights issues.  BDS does nothing for the well-being of Palestinians.  BDS is not a progressive cause.  Association with BDS undermines credibility.

Once again, BDS in their own words.


  1. Thank you Barbara for writing. Keep up the good work.

  2. Sorry I missed this piece for a month. Great one.

    Their insistence on that grates on me, too.

    We never had such a battle back when I exiled myself to Portland (amazingly enough!) for half a decade, and now that I'm back home to stay in Philadelphia, you can count on me always keeping an eye out for any such campaign against our own currently-forming coop.

    I'll stack my food politics (and my general liberal) credentials against those of any BDSer, any place and any time.

    Your links sum up BDS perfectly.

    They are a bigoted, pro-war circus of malign misfits and simple-minded clowns who deserve to be taken seriously by precisely nobody.

    Their cause has nothing whatsoever to do with food justice issues, as much as they'd clearly like to hitch a ride along with same.


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