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Food Co-ops Take Control

New Moberly chapter is a quick success

by Paul Sturtz,
Columbia, Missouri

MRCC's (Missouri Rural Crisis Center) board met in Moberly on October 7, 1995 marking the first time a board meeting has been hosted by a chapter. Moberly is one of six MRCC food cooperatives. Board members had set a goal at the February retreat of holding two board meetings a year at a chapter or a strong membership area. The Moberly meeting was a stirring kick-off to this new biannual tradition.

Board, staff and members sat at a large roundtable in the basement of the Coates St. Presbyterian Church and freely exchanged views on the food cooperative and other MRCC programs. The dozen Moberly members who attended were part of the core group responsible for making the one year-old food cooperative a quick success. During 1995, 3,320 limited-resource families purchased approximately 600,500 pounds of food items through the coop program. An estimated 13,280 individuals participated in the past year.

Roger Allison, executive director of MRCC, praised the volunteers for their dedication. "What is appealing about the food co-op is that it suggests a shared response to a problem, relying on hundreds of hours of volunteer hours to make it go. It's a self-help program where we each help each other."

Teresa Briscow, a dedicated volunteer and hog farmer, said MRCC needs to convince co-op participants that the food coop is not just an end in itself. The true success of the program may
also be measured in positive changes in participants' lives, self-esteem and community involvement, Allison said. Joyce Guthrie, one of the chapter's co-chairs, emphasized the importance of recruiting new volunteers to help, with a majority of the participants being elderly or handicapped. "You basically have to take people by the arm and say 'we need you as a volunteer.' You need to go one on one to get commitments."

The Moberly chapter, now grown to 330 members, has been an active fundraiser and a participant in MRCC organizing efforts. The chapter raised money for Lincoln Township's defense fund early last year and petitioned against bovine growth hormones. Goals for 1996 include more outreach to farm families, raising public awareness about the program and working with MRCC staff to coordinate chapter leadership training.

At Moberly and elsewhere, chapter leaders have worked to obtain higher quality and more products. The new freezer truck was prepped for food delivery. A chapter member was insured for driving, creating a new job of transporting food to the cooperatives around the state. Chapter members also coordinate delivery schedules.

This summer, MRCC will hire a part-time food cooperative coordinator to organize the ordering process and to make food purchases.

Published in In Motion Magazine - June 26, 1996