March Update

  | Food For Thought, GM Report

As the Board and I have shared over the past few months, we are exploring additional ways that our Co-op can help address income disparity in our community. As our Ends state, we exist to meet our shareholders’ collective need for reasonably priced food and products with an emphasis on healthy, locally grown, organic, and fairly traded goods. Essential to this mission is to be able to provide these healthy alternatives to as many people as possible.  We certainly do this in quite a few ways today. We offer, among other things, value brands and lines such as Field Day and Co+op Basics, an extensive bulk department, and a number of discount programs. These discount programs are where I would like to focus in this article.

There are currently three main ways for shareholders to be eligible for a discount at the BFC. First, is our Elder discount. This is a 5% discount to all shareholders over the age of 65. Next is our Shareholder Labor discount, which provides a 5% discount to shareholders who work 2 hours during the month either in the store or with a Commitment to Community partner. Finally, is our Food for All discount. This consists of a 10% discount offered to shareholders who are receiving benefits from other organizations or community partners. Of the three discount types, Elder discounts account for the vast majority of the discounts we provide, and while some Elder discount recipients rely on this discount to be able to shop at the BFC, many do not. Additionally, these programs do not stack. For example, if a shareholder receives the Elder discount and also works 2 hours at a Commitment to Community partner, they still only earn a 5% discount. The result is that there is no additional financial incentive to volunteer if you are already receiving one of the other discounts.

As we think about how our discount programs may look in the future, we have two main goals. We want to provide more help to people who need it and create more incentive for shareholders to volunteer in our community. We are exploring the following approach, which we believe will help us achieve these goals. First, migrate existing recipients of the Elder discount program who rely financially on their discount to either the Food for All or Shareholder Labor discount program (based on eligibility). Second, allow these discounts to stack. This means that all shareholders, including those over 65 who receive Food for All and are also able to volunteer two hours per month, will see an increase in their discount over what they see today. Shareholders who may rely financially on their Elder discount but are not eligible for Food for All will still receive the same discount they do today by volunteering. Current recipients of the Elder discount who are not eligible for Food for All and choose not to volunteer would forgo a discount, as the existing Elder program would be discontinued. The discontinuation of this program will, in turn, fund the increase in FFA or Shareholder Labor program participants. In this way, we provide greater support to people who need it the most and incentivize more volunteerism in our community.

We are still working on modeling these thoughts and will continue to provide updates and information as we continue this journey. As always, we value and encourage your thoughts and feedback as we explore new ways to provide healthy food to as many people as possible. I believe we can have an important impact on the lives of people who need our help, and it may mean that some of us may not enjoy the same benefits we are used to. In the words of the great Fred Rogers, “The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give them away”. The beauty of our Coop is that so many shareholders stand willing to share their blessings.

Best regards,


By Lee Bradford, General Manager

Lee Bradford, GM