I remember the moment I realized what starting a food co-op really meant for our community. I was on the phone with then-President Laura Moynihan. We were talking about our relationships with the people who worked side by side with us, toiling to open the doors of our own cooperatively owned grocery store.
“I was new here when we started this effort. I didn’t have a lot of local friends yet. Almost everyone I know in this community is because of this food co-op, and it doesn’t even exist yet,” Laura said to me. We both took a second to marvel at that statement. That’s when we realized that the co-op did actually exist, very firmly, here in Kitsap County. It existed within us.
At a later date, I posted on Facebook about a tasty beef stew I’d made, gluten free! I was quite proud, as beef stew is my weakness. Connie Quatermass, another volunteer, offered to swap some apple pie she’d made for some of my stew. I’d seen exchanges like that happening for a few years but this was my first time engaging in one myself.
There was something special, and at the same time really basic, about swapping food with my neighbor. While we live miles apart, the connection that was created was absolutely worth the drive, with a tasty dinner and dessert to top it all off.
In these everyday interactions the fabric of our community is woven. Someone falls ill, and her friends and neighbors arrange food deliveries until she is well. Another family welcomes a baby and their older children are toted around town while the parents adjust to the heady newborn phase once again. Someone loses their job and shares their plight, and their network puts the word out fast to help find employment for them.
It sometimes feels like the little we are able to give is never quite enough. Providing one meal may seem almost trite sometimes; a small gift card to a family in need can feel more like token help than something meaningful.
As a result of the Kitsap Community Food Co-op effort, my network has expanded exponentially. Today, I can rarely leave my house without running into someone I know from either the birth work I’ve done for the last twelve years (if I attended your birth but stare at you like I can’t remember who you are, I apologize. There have been a lot of babies!), or from the food co-op effort. My husband and I sometimes keep a running count of how many people I might run into in just one day, and we aren’t surprised when we’re out of town and still run into people I know. It’s just what happens when you are a part of your community. When you have received in proportion to what you have given, suddenly you are noted, and noticed.
While there are times when I feel impotent to do more, my heart breaking at the feeling of helplessness that washes over me at the tragedy my loved ones face, I come back to the moments that have made up my community. I know that it is knitted together in the smallest moments, sometimes unnoticed they are so mundane, but they make up the net that catches those of us who are lucky enough to be a part of it, should we fall.
We aren’t just creating a grocery store. There is so much more to our story than that. We’re creating a new sense of community. We have expanded the belief that our community can be more than it is, and in each kind gesture, we have created the truth behind that bold statement.
I’m so proud to be a part of this great adventure, right alongside hundreds of members who dared to dream that we could have something as crazy as a cooperatively owned grocery store. We’ll do it together! Local food, local people.
KCFC Vice President