Episode 14: Keeping it Local: Avoiding Big Box Stores

The proliferation of big box stores and giant supermarket chains has changed the face of grocery shopping, taking the place of many locally owned, independent stores and sending profits out to corporate headquarters. Recently, those stores have even started to offer a wide variety of natural and organic foods, threatening the unique contributions of natural food stores and co-op grocers. So what happens to those places? If you can find organic milk and bulk granola at Kroger, what does the co-op offer that the big box and chain stores cannot? In today’s episode we look at two models of consumer cooperatives, options for buying your food that rely on a less extractive model, where profit stays in the community: co-op grocers and community supported agriculture.

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“We used to think, and I think the USDA used to think, “Well, the problem is there's just a store missing…we just need to put a store here, problem solved.” Well, it turns out that was completely false. The problems go way upstream from that.”

C.E. Pugh National Co+op Grocers

CEO, National Co+op Grocers

Episode Guests:

C.E. Pugh

C.E. is CEO of National Co+op Grocers (NCG), the business services cooperative for retail food co-ops located throughout the U.S. He has spent his entire adult life in the grocery industry and believes food co-ops will continue to lead in creating more just and sustainable local food economies.

Leila Wolfrum

Leila is the General Manager at Durham Co-op Market in Durham, NC. Her entire professional career has been devoted to promoting sustainable agriculture, local investment and neighborhood economic development through fair business practices.

Brooke Bridges

Brooke has been a Kitchen Magician, Farmer and Food Justice Assistant Manager and CSA Manager at Soul Fire Farm, an Afro-Indigenous centered community farm committed to uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty in the food system.

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Top photo by Sundry Photography/Adobe Stock.