Acting Locally and Thinking Globally: Cooperating with Neighboring Co-ops

March 18, 2024
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As shareholders doing our regular rounds through the Co-op, checking items off our shopping lists, it can be easy to forget that we’re participating in a global movement to change the world one co-op at a time. Recently, our new General Manager Anthony Santorelli, fellow Board member Denise Glover, and I had the opportunity to attend the 13th annual meeting of the Neighboring Food Cooperative Association (NFCA), to connect with other co-ops in the region who share our dedication to cooperative values and principles. The NFCA is a federation of co-ops that works to link co-ops together to have a greater impact regionally and beyond. It currently consists of 44 member co-ops and startups in New England and New York, representing a total of over 185,000 individual members.

The opening session highlighted the history and work of the NFCA and the United Nations’ declaration of 2025 as the International Year of Cooperatives. The declaration is a way of promoting the co-operative model and raising awareness of the important role co-ops play in achieving many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for improving the planet and the quality of life by 2030. Co-ops are viewed as key to building an inclusive economy, addressing climate change, and strengthening food security. While we often think in terms of our local context and shopping needs, it was a good reminder that our co-op is part of something much bigger.

Two of the networking discussion topics offered were particularly relevant to the BFC Board’s reframing of our Ends in 2023 to highlight the challenges of income inequality and climate change. I chose to attend the “Food Insecurity” discussion, and Denise participated in the “Climate Change” group. 

The Food Insecurity session asked how we could address income inequality by working together as co-ops. Participants shared challenges and strategies for helping everyone in their communities access healthy food. Many highlighted relationships with state and local nonprofits similar to the BFC’s relationship with Groundworks, low-cost “basics” items, and discount programs such as “Food for All”. Noting that co-ops are often misperceived as being too expensive, several in the group shared success stories around gathering and sharing favorite recipes from their communities made with low-cost and SNAP-eligible ingredients to promote easy, budget-friendly shopping. Much of the conversation focused on the benefits of leveraging federal grants to improve nutrition by expanding access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The grants are super competitive, and applying for them requires resources, planning, and expertise. By the end of the session the group agreed that the NCFA is in a unique position to be able to pool member co-ops’ collective wisdom and serve as a resource to help co-ops connect with grant-writing experts and resources within the membership. 

Denise took part in the “Climate Changes and Social Justice” group and learned about what other co-ops are doing to mitigate climate change, including investing in solar panel arrays, EV charging stations, and setting zero waste goals. There was a “spirited but respectful” discussion about promoting plant-based diets as a way of lowering one’s carbon footprint.   

In the afternoon workshops, I attended the Policy Advocacy session, which highlighted the importance of co-op engagement in state and local legislation. The federal Farm Bill, which is up for reauthorization this year, will have a major impact on the availability of support and aid for small and independent farmers as well as food assistance nationwide. The NFCA is forming a peer group of representatives from member co-ops in each state to engage in research and dialogue to identify legislation affecting co-ops and work on strategies for advocacy.

Overall, it was a productive day full of stimulating learning, brainstorming, cooperating, getting to know our neighbors, and reflecting on the wider influence of the co-op movement. If you’re interested in learning more about the NFCA’s work and history, you can visit their website at

Anneka Kindler

Board of Directors