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Monthly Update from Tim
Tim Sullivan, Interim GM
I am writing this as we return to CU from a very restful Thanksgiving break with family and friends. Before we left, Charlotte and I had the opportunity to hear a talk about living a thankful life. The basic message was that people who are grateful for everything in their life are much happier than people who aren't. I believe this to be absolutely true, so it is a good time for me to thank Common Ground's owners, staff, board, producers and all the people who have made our stay here such a positive experience. We have enjoyed learning about Common Ground and the communities of Champaign/Urbana. It is also a good time for the co-op to thank our owners and producers who make Common Ground such a unique and special place. You are what makes it all possible.
Recently the U.S. Global Change Research Program came out with the Climate Science Special Report. You can find a copy here:
Earth is our home and sadly humanity is not treating it with the care it needs. It is difficult as individuals to see how we can reduce our footprint on our planet. Nonetheless, as a family we are exploring every aspect of how we live our lives, from the car we drive (or better yet don't drive), to where we get the energy for our home, to the food we eat. These may be small things in the big picture, but something small is better than nothing at all. We hope Common Ground can be one small part of how you choose to support the health of our planet. When you choose to purchase your food from Common Ground you support a whole group of small local and national businesses that really work hard to lower their impact on the planet. A good example is the Blue Moon carrots in our produce department that have traveled less than 9 miles (versus 2000+ for California carrots). Plus, Blue Moon's carrots are the most awesome tasting carrots in the world!
We believe the values of food co-ops, from supporting the local economy to providing as many local foods as possible, have a positive impact on the health of our home, planet earth. I am convinced Common Ground does this way better than any other food store in the Champaign-Urbana area. As owners you have chosen to support the co-op mission and values. Thank you for that choice!
Occasionally people ask me, Why be an owner? If the values I just talked about are not enough to tip the scales toward ownership, maybe Common Ground's Owner Appreciation Days events will make the difference. The next Owner Days is happening Thursday, December 7
through Sunday the 10
. I hope you will join us at least one of the days for fun, lots of local samples, and savings!
Have a great December!
December First Friday: Try our new deli sandwiches
The first Friday of every month, we throw a big sampling party. Our headliner for December is the new deli sandwiches - we've revamped the menu, come see what there is to offer and stay for dinner with a $1 off coupon for the first 50 customers to order a sandwich on 12/1!
|Click the flyer to go to the Facebook Event.
Feeding the Hungry, Reducing Food Waste, Strengthening
Sarah Buckman, Marketing
How does Common Ground reduce food waste and feed our hungry neighbors, all while increasing support for local food pantries and social welfare organizations? We'll tell you in one word: SHRINK!
"Shrink" is co-op lingo for food waste, culled food, or perishable food that just expired. This could be a torn package, a bruised apple, or an expired can of beans. Unlike the co-op, in many grocery stores the food is thrown out, put in the dumpster outside, and then thoroughly compressed within the dumpster for no one to be able to sort through it or dumpster dive.
Here at the co-op, we do things differently and we've had a large community impact! Because we have high standards for the foods that we sell, we donate any food or item that doesn't meet our standards for purchase (i.e. bruised fruits). For many years we have worked with Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, Austin's Place, and Courage C
onnection to pick up our shrink food items. For the last couple of years, we've noticed that many food pantries that were state supported were not receiving state funding, due to the lack of an Illinois State budget. Many food pantries that have continued were able to because they were privately run, like Daily Bread Soup Kitchen.
Over the last few months, we have added on some of the newest local food pantries in Champaign-Urbana to our Shrink Receiving List. DIBBS, a startup created by two UIUC students,
Kathleen Hu and Sohinee Oswal, is also dedicated to reducing food waste. They've helped us connect with Jubilee Cafe and Uni Place (University Place Christian Church), organizations that were feeding hungry neighbors and were in search of more fresh produce to incorporate into their community meals. Kathleen and Sohinee reached out the co-op last year to see how we all could coordinate to improve our relationships with local food pantries and divert still-edible (but un-sellable) food from the landfill. Hundreds of pounds of culled food have been diverted, just through Jubilee Cafe and Uni Place. A special shoutout to all of our local organizations who are dedicated to come pick up culled food each week.
Jubilee Cafe is the newest food pantry in town accepting food donations and is
run by volunteers, many of whom are co-op owners. Volunteers help with such events as Jubilee's Monday night free dinner, from 5:00-6:30 pm at Community United Church (805 S 6th St, Champaign). Jubilee Cafe has taken culled foods, many locally grown and ripe, to prepare for these dinners.
Many times food pantries are at a loss for produce or organic foods, so this has been a great exchange for everyone involved. University Place Christian Church also hosts a free meal every Wednesday, around 6 pm.
Did you also know that we have composting stations for our customers but also for each fresh department at the co-op, like Produce, Deli, Kitchen, and Bakery? Not only do we divert food from the landfill but we divert food scraps, too! We work with farmers who are invested in picking up compost on a daily basis. Compost items consist of coffee grounds, peeled potato skins, our deli plates, and more. Our compost feeds hogs and chickens at Old Dixie Pastures in Fithian, IL and is converted into healthy soil at The Mulberries Farm and Orchard in Champaign.
Common Ground is dedicated to reducing food waste. We're thankful for our local food pantries, composters, and DIBBS who collaborate with us to make our community better fed and more sustainable.
About Our New Private Label Supplements
Jess Rasmussen, Wellness Manager
Putting our name on a dietary supplement is a commitment to our brand but more important, to you. It's our way of guaranteeing our own vitamins provide the quality you expect from the co-op, at a reasonable price.
In choosing our private label supplement partner, we considered many other manufacturers. Some lacked experience. Some included artificial colors, flavors and fillers like starch or sugar. Others focused on trendy supplements without offering a full range of multiples minerals herbs and powders. Some used plastic packaging and some were cheaper.
But only one company offered the proven manufacturing experience (since 1925), value for the price, and dedication to quality necessary to fulfill our commitment to you.
This quality is evidenced by:
Packaging in amber glass bottles for maximum potency, freshness and recyclability
Best by dating uses a customer friendly date, not a code
Full disclosure labeling to advise you of all the ingredients used in each supplement
Double verified gluten free products
Educational copy on the label helping you choose the right products for you and your family
Featuring high nutritional value and exceptional dollar value, we feel our own supplement line is a fantastic choice for premium quality dietary supplements.
Questions? Comments? Reach Jessica at email@example.com
A Look at the Year Ahead in Marketing
Sam Ihm, Marketing
2018 will be a big year for Common Ground. As we find a permanent General Manager, we look forward to the many positive changes to come and are excited to build upon the great progress we've made in 2017.
Each quarter, we will have a marketing focus that is timely, related to our ends, and aimed at issues we have championed at the co-op since 1974. The first quarter's theme is Why Co-op and will address questions like:
- Why shop at the co-op instead of somewhere else?
- What does it mean to be an owner?
- What impact does the co-op have in the community and beyond?
Each quarter will feature events, focused store signage, classes, CGFC apparel, editorials, invitations for public participation, and more centered around our theme.
The plan for the rest of the year is as follows:
Q2 (Apr-Jun): Local Food
Q3 (Jul-Sep): Our Farmers
Q4 (Oct-Dec): In the Community
We are also looking to do more with our Round Up groups, social media audiences, and the student population in 2018. For example, our student discount is increasing from 5% to 10% and moving to Sunday, an easier day for students to come in.
Personally, I can't wait to open up the discussion this January. In the meantime, think about your own answer: Why do you co-op?
Questions? Comments? Reach Marketing at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shopping with Dietary Restrictions
Lisa Thomas, Grocery Manager
Having family and friends over with dietary restrictions? Don't sweat it! Common Ground Food Co-op has many easy options for everyone! We have Vegetarian meat options in our freezer and deli grab n' go, Vegan & Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie, Dairy Free Egg Nog...and more!
We have staff members of all dietary restrictions so don't hesitate to ask for help!
Questions? Comments? Reach Lisa at email@example.com
Let's Get Learnin': December classes
Thursday, December 7th; 4-5
FREE; registration required
This monthly cooking class is for kids in grades 3-5. We learn how to read recipes, use kitchen tools safely, and prepare new foods.
Thursday, December 7th; 6-7
$5 owners & non-owners
This is a make-and-take class where you can leave with your own jar of bath salts as well as knowledge of magnesium's healing power. This is a great opportunity for a homemade holiday gift!
Saturday, December 9th; 2-4:30
$10 owners; $15 non-owners
This month, we will learn to prepare a non-vegetarian dish native to Ethiopia. Join us for hands-on, cultural class with lots of delicious foods to sample.
Sunday, December 10; 3-5
$10 owners; $15 non-owners
Join us for a soapmaking workshop while supporting local business, Grounds for Growth. G4G produces a line of coffee soap and body scrub made entirely of recycled materials. In this class, you will see their process while making your own coffee scrub.
Tuesday, December 12; 4-5
FREE; registration required
This monthly cooking class is for kids in grades 1 & 2. We learn how to use kitchen tools safely while preparing delicious kid-friendly foods.
Thursday, December 14; 6-7:30
$12 owners; $17 non-owners
Similar to our November class, we are making honey facial masks and flower-infused cleansing oils while Liz shares her knowledge on herbal remedies.
Saturday, December 16th; 3-4:30
$10 owners; $15 non-owners
Join us for a Nigerian cooking class to learn about staple western African foods and spices.
Wednesday, December 20th; 6-7:30
$5 registration fee; $5 voucher available at the end of class
Join us for our holiday segment of Cooking Healthy on a Budget, where all recipes are less than $2 per serving. It is $5 to save a seat, but all attendees will receive a $5 voucher to use toward a purchase.
Thursday, December 28th; 6-7:00
$7 owners; $12 non-owners
Fire cider is a combination of herbs, spices, honey, and apple cider vinegar that is used to boost the immune system, increasing circulation and metabolism. In this class, you will not only learn about its medicinal qualities, but also make your own bottle of fire cider.
Questions? Comments? Reach Education at firstname.lastname@example.org
December Round Up For Good: Crisis Nursery
Stephanie Record, Ed.M., LCSW
Dear Common Ground Friends,
The holidays are a time for reflection and a time to give thanks. At Crisis Nursery, we're grateful for support from friends like you. Your donations through the Round Up for Good program will support our Safe Children and Strong Families programs, making a difference in the lives of the children and families we serve over the holidays--and every day.
- A toddler whose family is homeless will eat a healthy meal, take a warm bath and sleep in a cozy bed on Thanksgiving.
- A newborn's mother will rest easy over the holidays, knowing her baby is being swaddled and rocked peacefully to sleep while she receives much-needed medical attention.
- A grandmother parenting once again, will start the New Year hopeful, with renewed strength, after receiving support from a Crisis Nursery family specialist through home visits and support groups.
Crisis Nursery creates an "Island of Safety" dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect by providing 24-hour emergency care for children and support to strengthen families in crisis. We are the only emergency-based child care facility in the area open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for the entire community to access with no fees or income eligibility.
Our Safe Children program provides safe shelter for children ages birth through six and is available for families who are experiencing a crisis or emergency and no other resources are available to help.
Our Strong Families Program provides support and parenting education to strengthen parenting skills and confidence. We provide resources and services to families dealing with challenges such as domestic violence in the home, homelessness, postpartum depression, parental stress and teen parenting.
Thanks to generous friends like you, we were able to serve a record-high 5,741 admissions this past fiscal year and provide 45,058 hours of crisis care to families in need.
Thank you for "rounding up" this December. Together, we are preventing child abuse and neglect in Champaign County.
With gratitude this holiday season,
November Round Up For Good Results
Together, we raised over $4,000 this November for Austin's Place Emergency Shelter, the only emergency shelter for single women in Champaign County.
At Home on the Farm
by Sam Ihm, Marketing
My parents' northern Illinois farmhouse sits on a few acres atop a hill just outside DeKalb. You can easily see into town and as far as your eyes can take you in every direction. It makes for incredible sunrises and sunsets, as there's a 360-degree skyscape at all times. That's one of the benefits of living in a flat state: lots of sky, and a more subtle - or trained, perhaps - appreciation of beauty.
This land didn't always seem so flat. It's only now, with the razed post-harvest cornfields that you can see forever. There was probably a time when, if you stood on my parents' property, you'd be enveloped by forest. Maybe the 150-year-old trees that overlook one of the neighboring cornfields remember being small among giant ancestors.
Whatever was there, it's not there anymore. There's nothing. It's barren, edge-less, tree-less, life-less fields in every direction. The year's productivity is summed up by the "Caution: Harvest In Progress" signs that tell the uninviting, impersonal story of modern farming.
Watch out! We're feeding the world!
Looking northwest over the fields at sunset on a warm fall evening
Photo taken by Sam Ihm in DeKalb, IL.
The first thing I see when I look at our Illinois landscape is what's no longer there: the animals, the rivers, the people, the prairie. They've been replaced by our modern farming economy, which works on industrial scales toward the eradication of everything unnecessary. What we're learning, though, some of us more intuitively than others, is that what is good for productivity and the bottom line is often bad, bad, bad for people and planet.
My parents' neighbors didn't even bother with cover crops, which benefit the soil greatly while it waits to bear next year's fruit. Cover crops are known to improve soil fertility, quality, and biodiversity; hold water; and deter weeds, pests, and diseases. Perhaps most importantly, they help to manage erosion, a problem we don't frequently associate with flat land.
Erosion is something we don't see, but it's
there. Twelve percent of Illinois farmland is between one and two times the tolerable soil loss level, the highest percentage since 2006 (
). Mechanical tilling, careless inputs, and lack of cover crops are major contributors to this.
"Overall, we've lost about half of the organic matter that we had when we started plowing," says Jennifer Filipiak of American Farmland Trust.
Erosion occurs when soil can't hold itself together. It leads to decreased yields now and in the future as well as reduced water quality and purity. Wind and rainfall, which exacerbate erosion, are expected to increase steadily due to climate change. The very soil which is eroding holds a key to combating climate change, as plants and soil work together to sequester carbon, removing it from the atmosphere. However, the poorer our soil becomes, the harder it will be to recover from the effects of our poor decisions.
It's easy just to point out the problems with industrial agriculture (there would be no end to it if I wanted to keep going). Awareness is the first step, but it does little alone. We need solutions. We need to look beyond what is convenient to what is right. When the problem is big, the solution is small.
Small farming, that is. I believe the co-op and this community of farmers, conscious consumers, and caring, careful neighbors is working toward solutions. We support local farmers - not farmers who have fields locally, but local farmers who produce and distribute their food locally. Small farming is based on doing what you can, with what you have, where you are. It avoids the pitfalls of industrial farming because the system is not based on productivity alone, but considers and depends on the health of the overall ecosystem: the microorganisms, the bugs, the birds, the mammals, the plants, the people, the trees.
Those expansive fields aren't helping (or feeding) anyone. Sure, they produce an amount of pounds of corn and soybeans, but it's mostly not for human consumption. And at what cost? The forest is gone. Or was it a prairie? Doesn't matter now! The soil is virtually uninhabitable, only deer dare roam the fields. The blowover of pesticides routinely damages my mother's garden. I wonder if those who keep this system in place care about these sorts of things.
I am sure, though, that thinking about this, caring about these things, doing what you can, and encouraging others to do their part, is worth it.
Questions? Comments? Reach Sam at email@example.com
Dangerous Dicamba: Why we support local farmers
by Sam Ihm, Marketing
What's the Issue?
Dicamba herbicide wreaking havoc on local ecosystems
Monsanto's weedkiller, dicamba, is causing widespread damage in Illinois. Drift from the airborne herbicide has ruined millions of acres of crops - including unsprayed fields, eradicated by the flying poison - and damaged oak trees in numerous nature preserves, including Funk's Grove just 10 miles south of Bloomington.
Retired biologist Lou Nelms has documented the damage to historic oak trees, whose leaves showed tell-tale signs of weedkiller damage. In Iowa, there have been over 1,000 complaints this year of oak tatters, where oak leaf tissue becomes deformed. Many believe dicamba or a similar herbicide is to blame for the condition of these trees. It's important to note that these are just the cases that were noticed.
||A thin line of pavement separates heavily sprayed
fields from where my younger siblings play.
Picture taken by Sam Ihm in DeKalb, IL.
Dicamba has become
Monsanto's centerpiece after years of Roundup application resulted in resistant mutant-weeds. But the "technology" tends to evaporate and become airborne, its next victims subject to the direction of the wind. Farmers and researchers alike report more instances of plant damage than any year in recent memory. But Monsanto maintains its innocence, suing against a proposed ban on dicamba, disallowing research on the chemical, and shifting blame to any number of unlikely, less obvious causes.
Why is it Important to the Co-op and our community?
It relates directly to two of our ends:
The dicamba issue is also important because it underlines the importance of
knowing your food
The co-op provides a marketplace for local and healthful goods. One of the
we support local farmers is because of their proximity to us. It sounds obvious. And it is! If a farmer is also your neighbor, they are accessible. You can ask them about their practices. If you can't ask them yourself, you can find out from us. The co-op makes it easier to know your farmer.
When you know your farmer, you know your food. You know what's in your food. The farmers who provide us their produce put their hearts and souls into each day's work, in the fields and on the drawing boards, where they decide how, and not just what, they'll grow. The how is not just a matter of efficiency. The inputs inevitably become the outputs. When you put in dicamba, well, some of it floats into the forest, and the rest goes into the food it becomes. And I wonder which is worse.
Questions? Comments? Reach Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org
Board Priorities for 2018
by Julie Zilles, Board President
As is our tradition, Common Ground's Board of Directors held our annual retreat in early November. It was a full day of thought-provoking questions and engaging discussions, in small groups and with the full board. One of our objectives for the day was to build consensus around our priorities for the coming year, and I'm excited to share those priorities with you here.
Our first priority will be to continue the search for a permanent General Manager. This is probably not a surprise to most of you, since Common Ground is currently operating with an interim General Manager. This search is a challenging one, as we require of a General Manager not only excellence in grocery store operations, but also shared values and an ability to hear and engage owners, staff, and customers in cooperative work. Since our initial search was unsuccessful, the Board has engaged Brett Myers from The Carlisle Group to recruit additional candidates for us. Brett will be working closely with our GM Search Committee: Magdalena Casper-Shipp, Karen Medina, Marissa Stewart, and Julie Zilles.
Our second priority is owner engagement. Over the coming year, the Board will be working to improve communication channels for owners and experimenting with new events and other ways to strengthen our cooperative community. This work will be led by our Owner Outreach Committee: Karen Medina, Marissa Stewart, and Kristin Walters.
Our third priority is both a fundamental responsibility of the board and a current need for our cooperative: developing a vision for the future of Common Ground. This is perhaps the most difficult of our priorities to pin down precisely. We want to use a visioning process that is led by the Board, involves close alignment with management, and engages stakeholders such as owners, staff, and producers throughout. None of the existing processes we've found seem to do that well, so again we'll be experimenting. Karen Carney and Julie Zilles will be leading this work.
I also want to acknowledge the essential efforts of two committees that generally operate behind the scenes: the Board Development Committee and the Policy Committee. Unless you are either running for the board or serving on the board, you probably don't see what our Board Development Committee is doing, but they are responsible for ensuring that all board members are well-educated about all aspects of our work, for recruiting new candidates for the board, and for running elections and orientation for new members. That has been particularly important recently, as we have had nine new board members join the board over the last two years. Magdalena Casper-Shipp and Margaret Johnstone are returning members of this committee.
Underpinning everything the Board does is the work of the Policy Committee. Their work, too, seems never-ending, as we are always working to make our policies clearer and more robust. The Policy Committee is often called to imagine a wide range of worst-case scenarios and then to provide a policy structure that reduces their risk of occurrence. Continuing a tradition of excellence on this committee, we have Charles Delman and Keith McKenney.
As I write this over Thanksgiving, during a time for gratitude, I want to close by thanking all of you for your support of Common Ground, with its messy mix of idealism and imperfection, conflicting opinions and shared values. I wish to thank the staff, both past and present, for their hard work and dedication, as well as board members, past and present, for their leadership. Together, we have created something that brings me both food and hope, and I believe that we must work together to continue creating good.
Wishing you health, joy, and tasty, nourishing food this holiday season!
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300 S. Broadway Avenue Suite #166, Urbana, IL 61801