January 14, 2010

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The co-op movement grows
Manchester group hopes for 2,000 signups

By Linda A. Thompson-Odum food@hippopress.com

Access to better food — that is the mission behind the new movement to create a Manchester Food Co-op. A group of community members has come together to launch a cooperative that will provide organic and local produce and products to the area at a reasonable price. So far the idea has caught on.

“Over the summer we got about a dozen people to sign up,” coordinator Veronica Kamerman said. She works for the School of Community Economic Development (CED) at Southern New Hampshire University. “After our first meeting [in November] we had 50. Now it’s more than 400. We hope to have 2,000 people willing to sign up by next year, and at this rate I really believe we could reach that goal by summer.”

A food co-op works by getting a group of people to buy memberships. That seed money will allow organizers to obtain loans for the rest of the money needed to open the store, an amount Kamerman estimates will be between $400,000 and $500,000. Since the store will buy straight from local producers, there is no middle man and costs are lower. Members also volunteer to help run the store, which also helps keep costs down.

The idea for the co-op came about through conversations within CED that began a little more than a year ago. Kamerman said she and professor Christian Clamp would wonder “how Manchester, the biggest city in New Hampshire, doesn’t have one. There are ones in Concord, Hanover, and New London, but not in Manchester. We wanted access to better food. There’s the farmers market, but only for a couple of months in the summer. We want access to fresh food. Healthy foods. In Manchester, 64 percent of the population is overweight or obese.”

Kamerman has two food pet peeves: iceberg lettuce and white bread. Neither has any substantive nutritional value.

“Supermarkets have some organic products, but they are in small quantities and are pricy,” she noted. “And you get distracted by things you don’t really need. Foods with hidden amounts of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or other sugar substitute, or high in fat. Ingredients you can’t pronounce. And who has time to read all the labels? What we’re going to have is real food, with no additives or preservatives.”

The organizers’ first steps are to hold informational meetings so the community can understand their mission. One such meeting, called “Co-op 101,” is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 14, at 6 p.m. in Academic Hall room 106 at SNHU. Customer Service Manager Josh Bourassa of the Concord Cooperative Market will lead the meeting to explain all that the co-op plans to offer. The next informational meeting will be held sometime in March. A steering committee meeting to organize work on the Co-op is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 21, at 6 p.m. in Webster Hall at SNHU.

The steering committee will create subcommittees to oversee different aspects of the start-up, such as setting membership fees, creating the Web site, and membership awareness. The plan is to find a  store location in the downtown area that offers ample parking. An existing building is preferable to starting from scratch.

The organizers have created a Facebook page to help keep interested people informed. It currently has 370 members, some of which are Manchester area restaurant owners and chefs. Kamerman said the goal is to get as many people involved as possible from all walks of life.

 “Once we have that critical 2,000 members, the process really can move along,” Kamerman said. “Most co-ops take two or three years to get going, but many of them didn’t have the Internet. Today it’s so easy to spread the word. In my heart of hearts, I believe we can have it going in a year. Worst-case scenario would be two years. But it has to be a grassroots effort. Nobody else will do it.”


The Rustic Leaf
15 Elm St., Milford, 672-1556, therusticleaf.com
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for brunch only.


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A year of eats

All-you-can-read guide to breakfast
A bagel by any other l
abel
A picnic ó itís romance with ants
A sweet burst of summer, in stages
Beef, It's What's For Dinner, Lunch, And Dessert
Be it ever so humble, the burger rules
Blockbuster snacks for your movie
Box Of Chocolates
C Is For Cookie And Christmas And Cool Combo
Celebrating A Holiday For The Rest Of Us
Celebrate Easter In A Sugar Coma
Chat And Chew

Chinese soup is magic
Chocolate cake makes everything better
Chocolate, Part II
Competition flows like chocolate
Corn Flake Chicken, Honeycomb Salad
Dining at the "Your House Bistro"
Don't Dread The Bread
Dress Up Your Next Meal
Drinking Out Of The Box
Eating Your Way Back To Health
Empanadas
Enter Soup
Experiments With Very Bad Brownies
Feeding A Crowd The Morning After
Follow the cider house rules
Fresh Herbs
Go ahead ó run silent, run deep
Goodbye corn syrup, hello organic oatmeal
Go Indian for Thanksgiving
Grilled Cheese Junkie

Halloween candy for grown-ups
Have a Happy Meal and a happier wallet
Holiday Cookies - The Easy Way
Holiday Potluck 101-Tips For The Kitchen Novice
Home-Based Date
How do you like them apples?
In-A-Pinch Love Feast
It's not easy to be cheesy
Itís not Christmas without tamales
Lest We Forget The Humble Squash
Keeping your cool while you eat
Living through your salad days

Looking Beyond The Hot Dog Stand
Lunching your way to a less toxic you
Meat's meat and a man's gotta eat

Moist and delicious chicken ó no, really
Oatmeal Cookies, The Miracle Cure
Oscar Night, When The Stars Come Out To Eat

Offering Up A Slice Of Teriyaki Pie
Pot Pies Are Darn Tasty
Pumpkin-Flavored Treats
Small Plates Are The Next Big Thing
Speedy 'za not pie in the sky
Steak: itís whatís for dinner, again
Summer coolers, just add sunlight
Summer Squash
Super Bowl Grub
Take A Walk On The Dark Side
Taste of Manchester Event
The Cosmopolitan
The joys of a simple oatmeal breakfast
The return of comfort food
The One-Note Cook Book
The New American Plate Cookbook
The Stickiest, Hottest & Sweetest Of Love's Labors
The taste of retro
The Unheralded Peanut Butter Cookies
The union of sweet and heat
The Weekly Dish (12-16-04)
The Weekly Dish (12-23-04)

The Weekly Dish [1-13-05]
There's a Barbecue Bonanza Next Door
Week Four: Adding Diet To The Mix
What Was Hot And Haute In 2004
When $$ trumps urge to dine out
When in doubt, go for the organic
When nothing else will cool, Slurp it
You Say Potato, She'll Say Potato,Too
You say tomato, writer says lunch