What is Membership?

Since the beginning, GreenStar's mission focused on making nutritious, whole food available to its members. But membership means more than just access to good, healthy food...

When you join the Co-op you become a Member-Owner of a locally-owned and cooperatively operated values-based business. We focus on the social and environmental impact GreenStar makes on our local and global community, as well as economic performance. We put our values first, and return all profits back to the Co-op or donate them to the community.

The co-operative business model has proven to be a strong alternative to traditional profit-driven businesses. And, for every dollar you spend in a locally-owned business or cooperative, 45 cents is return to the community, compared to only 13 cents when you spend a dollar at a chain store.

One Member – One Vote means your voice truly counts!

Like all consumer co-ops, GreenStar is owned and democratically run by the people who use the store. Unlike traditional corporations where the amount of a stockholder's investment determines his or her voting power, every member at GreenStar has equal voting rights. As a Member-Owner, you have an equal say in the future direction of GreenStar.

By investing and participating in your co-op, you're putting your values into action.

Through your Equity Share investment and patronage, GreenStar supports the health and well-being of our member-owners, our community and the planet by:

  • Purchasing from local farmers and businesses
  • Paying a livable wage
  • Using clean energy and recycled office supplies
  • Supporting organic agriculture and fair trade producers
  • Offering health insurance to employees
  • Donating to local charities and events
  • Providing education on nutrition, health and sustainability
  • Improving access to healthy food to those on limited budgets through the FLOWER program



 

 

Sharing GreenStar's Healthy Food 
Access, Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

 

By Alexis Alexander, 

Membership Manager

Students-Eating-Lunch-smMany co-ops, including GreenStar, have struggled in their attempts to expand their membership to more accurately reflect the socioeconomic and racial demographics of their communities at large. Over the past few years, GreenStar has undertaken significant food access and community partnership initiatives, which are effecting real change in our community.

We recently presented our efforts in those areas to fellow co-op representatives from around the country at the annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference. This yearly conference offers informative workshops and networking opportunities for board members, management, and staff of food cooperatives. We hope that sharing the multifaceted approach we've successfully undertaken over the past few years might help other co-ops initiate successful diversity and inclusion programs.

GreenStar's presentation was entitled "A Working Model of Diversity & Inclusion for Food Cooperatives." We presented to a room packed with highly interested cooperators, eager to hear our message.

We began with the history of how our current diversity initiatives began — namely, with a growing negative view of GreenStar from various sectors in the community, increasingly voiced at community events, member-owner forums, meetings, and in general conversations. These perceptions boiled down to two basic points: First, our stores were viewed as inaccessible to those of low to medium income. Second, we were seen as a primarily white, affluent organization that practiced a sort of passive discrimination. Upon serious reflection, we recognized these perceptions to be accurate.

We shared with the audience the two distinct ways in which we decided to address these concerns. First, to improve food access for low- and middle-income members, we created a low-priced commodities program, the BASICS program, for which we identify about 20 essential products and offer them at lower prices on an ongoing basis at a near-wholesale margin. We also instituted the FLOWER program. FLOWER (Fresh, Local & Organic Within Everyone's Reach) provides a 15-percent discount at the register to member-owners who currently qualify for and receive benefits through SNAP (food stamps), TANF, WIC, Medicaid, or the free school lunch program. To reduce the barrier that joining GreenStar may have for someone unfamiliar with co-ops, GreenStar donates the first membership installment payment for new member-owners who join the Co-op through FLOWER.

Second, we explained how, to address the concern that GreenStar was a predominantly white, affluent organization, we began meeting quarterly with a group of leaders from community organizations such as GIAC and the Multicultural Resource Center, along with those who have been critical of our past inclusivity efforts. We asked these newfound community partners to help change the Co-op's perspective on what it means to be a truly inclusive organization. The message to our CCMA audience was simple and clear: listen to the criticism you receive and take it to heart with an open mind; then, in order to create an environment that is truly more welcoming to all, partner with those in a position to give concrete, constructive feedback and assistance, and be willing to make the necessary changes in your policies and procedures.

We further detailed for our engaged listeners the work that followed these first steps. Our community partners helped us write a diversity and inclusion statement, and revise our hiring, membership, and marketing materials to use more inclusive language and content. We established a protocol of sharing our job postings with our partners, who in turn sent and continue to send potential job applicants our way. We shifted a significant part of our advertising budget over to outreach and donations to ensure we increased our investment in diversity-affirming community events, sponsorship, and outreach. We made a significant commitment to providing staff with diversity-related training opportunities, such as the Undoing Racism workshop sponsored by the Human Services Coalition.

The audience was very enthused by the financial figures we shared that showed the strong sales growth we've experienced since our initiatives began. Knowing that many co-ops are concerned that a low-income discount program might put them at financial risk, we made it a point to show how our FLOWER discount has increased the ability of working families and low-income individuals to shop more at GreenStar with no negative effect on the Co-op's financial performance. We also demonstrated that FLOWER has been successful in bringing in low-income individuals and working families as active participants in the Co-op. Since the program began in October 2010, FLOWER is responsible for 244 new member-owners, many of whom never thought they could afford to shop at GreenStar.

Heads were nodding in the room when we revealed how quickly we've experienced an increase in racial diversity amongst both staff and member-owners. We shared how community members who traditionally shied away from the Co-op started shopping with us because they began to see "people who look like me" and thus found it a much more comfortable place to shop. We found that staff diversity helps perpetuate itself as word of mouth circulated throughout our community that the Co-op was a positive place to work. And we shared that in just two years' time, the percent of staff who identify themselves as non-white has grown from 3.6 to 12 percent. What we were saying resonated with our audience, and you could see many light bulbs going off in our fellow cooperators' minds.

Finally, we shared our belief that there is no end to the process of becoming a culturally competent and inclusive organization and that, despite the success we've achieved both culturally and financially over the past few years, our work to be a truly inclusive organization is ongoing and really has just begun. It's our deepest wish that similar new initiatives will spring up in co-ops across the country, inspired by GreenStar's efforts.

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