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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Food Co-ops and the Paradox of Exclusivity

Addressing Class and Race in the Food Justice Movement

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January 30, 2015
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In this interview, Esteban Kelly of the AORTA Collective (Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance) discusses the problems of exclusivity in food co-ops with Professor Andrew Zitcer of Drexel University.  Zitcer has recently published an article on the topic in journal Antipode:

Consumer food cooperatives constitute a vital part of the alternative food movement in the United States, alongside farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture, community gardens and other initiatives. Like these efforts, food co-ops seek to counter the dominance of industrial agriculture and the decimation of local economies. Yet food co-ops wrestle with a paradox of exclusivity, whereby some practices and people are inadvertently left out in order to create conditions for a strong identification among others with particular ways of being and doing. This article explores the paradox of exclusivity through an in-depth study of two food co-ops in Philadelphia, PA. Exclusivity manifests itself in what the co-ops sell, their business practices, and how they market themselves to potential members. Overcoming the paradox of exclusivity requires efforts towards affordability, accessibility and reflective practice in order for co-ops to realize their transformative social and economic potential.

Kelly draws on his experiences at the Mariposa Food Co-op and stresses the importance of listening, openness and the willingness to have our beliefs challenged in overcoming inadvertant exclusivity in our cooperative enterprises.


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