Why GROW Bananas?

Our organic bananas are worth going “bananas” over because they’re not only super high quality but each purchase goes toward helping farm workers. So when you buy bananas from the Co-op and see the “GROW” sticker, here’s what it’s all about:

GROW Overview

  • GROW was founded in 2005 by Organics Unlimited in support of its mission: “our responsibility to care for our workers and the communities where we grow our high-quality, organic fruit”.
  • A percentage from the purchase of each box of GROW organic bananas is earmarked for the GROW fund.
  • Since its founding, GROW has raised over $2 million in aid for communities in Mexico and Ecuador through retailer and distributor support.
  • The mission of GROW is to create a better quality of life for not only the farm workers, but entire communities.
  • GROW funds provide educational, dental and vision support, clean drinking water, milk for growing children and other necessities to those who need it the most.
  • GROW is also dedicated to environmental stewardship and promotes farming using organic, sustainable methods, not only for the health of our environment, but for the health of workers and consumers.

Preparing for Success

By Matt Stanley/ General Manager

We’ve been talking about expansion a lot over the last couple years. We received an overwhelmingly positive response from a shopper survey about expansion, created a Strategic Plan built around the idea that we’d expand and increase our impact in the community, and worked with the Board of Directors to design site-selection criteria that met our needs. Since then we’ve been looking for the ideal piece of real estate. The next big step in our progress towards expansion is signing a lease for a location that aligns with the Board-created site selection criteria.

Real estate negotiations don’t make the best news. We want to present our plan to the ownership when they are firm and in our best interests. In the meantime, I thought I’d use this opportunity to share some of the preparedness work we have accomplished or are currently working on. The goal of all this work is to give our new expanded store the best chance of success – and it has enhanced our current operation too!

Organizational Capacity

Last year we looked at an analysis of our current organizational structure and planned for how it will evolve as we continue to grow and eventually open our new store. Our staff size is expected to grow considerably right out of the gate. Think 60-65 staff members compared to our current staff of 25. We now have a clear path toward what our organizational chart will look like, how roles will change, and where new positions will be needed. This provides staff awareness for those interested in further developing their skills and interests as the Co-op grows. We’ve already implemented a new position, Front End Manager, who oversees the cashiers. We hope you experience continued enhancements in customer service when you check out your groceries.

HR Work

We’ve nearly completed a redrafting of our staff manual complete with legal review. It will prepare us to manage and apply our policies fairly to a larger staff. It will also serve as an improved tool for staff to use in order to understand the relationship between themselves and their employer. The plan for the new store calls for a part time HR person. We know this will improve the workplace because it will provide staff with a regular and accessible expert on the co-op’s benefits, policies, and the handling of sensitive situations in way that aligns with our cooperative values.

Financial Management

Last year we voluntarily underwent a financial audit of fiscal years 2014-2015. We had no material weaknesses – meaning from the auditor’s perspective there is no reason to believe that there has been any misstatement of the Co-op’s financial accounting. We are currently completing an audit of 2016. Producing audited statements will give validity to the financial performance of the Co-op as we seek financing for our upcoming project. It also offers us parameters for improving internal controls and ensuring that the Co-op is following Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for grocery retailers.

Staff Development

We have focused and will continue to focus on developing the leadership capacity of our management team. This includes trainings, weekly review and practice of leadership tools and educational material, and more. We regular read leadership themed books as a team and meet for discussion. Our latest read was a book called The Good Jobs Strategy. The book that demonstrates that companies that view their workforce as an asset to be maximized rather than a cost to be minimized have both happier workers and better business results. Of course, at the Co-op we want happy engaged workers because that translates to better service to our owners and shoppers. Better service means more folks support our Co-op and our impact on the community grows.

Competition

We got experience dealing with increased competition after Fred Meyer completed its remodel in 2014.  We planned and minimized the impact from the increase in their offering of natural foods. We added fresh meat to the store, expanded our deli offering, and improved our prices. Now we have our eyes set on how a Walmart may impact the co-op. The Management Team will be preparing a plan for how we’ll maintain our momentum after Walmart opens early next year. Preparing for competition or shifts in the market for natural foods is a skill we’ll want even after we open our new location. We know that our willingness and ability to support local producers sets us apart from stores like Wal-Mart and our capacity to sell more local products will only increase in our new store.

A Strong Investment

All this work in combination with the nitty-gritty details of the expansion project (signing a lease) which we hope to soon share means that when it comes time to invest in the Co-op’s preferred shares, you’ll know we’ve done our homework, planned meticulously, and thereby minimized risk to our owner-investors and shoppers who depend on our store for their diets. It doesn’t hurt that it improves the co-op experience now too! We look forward to sharing more of our plans soon!

Tips for Reading Food Labels

By Angela Sidlo/ Certified Health Coach and Co-op Board Member

Angela Sidlo for webMost packaged foods have a Nutrition Facts label. Here are some tips for reading the label and making smart food choices:

Check servings and calories. Look at the serving size and how many servings you are actually eating.  That bowl of chips you ate while watching the ball game could have been as much as 4 servings worth!  That means 4 times the calories too.

Make your calories count.  Look at the calories on the label and compare them with the nutrients they offer.  Tip: When you look at a food’s nutrition label, first check the calories, and then check the nutrients to decide whether the food is worth eating.
reading nutrition label for web
Eat less sugar.  Read the ingredient list, if sugars are one of the first few ingredients, put it back on the shelf. 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon.  The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends for men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons), women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons).  Tip: names for added sugars (caloric sweeteners) include sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose.

Know your fats.  Look for foods low in saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol, for heart health.  Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as those in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.  My favorite good oils list includes olive, avocado, sesame, sunflower and organic canola oils.  Tip: goods fats should be in the range of 20% to 35% of the total calories you eat.

Reduce sodium (salt); increase potassium.  Research shows that eating no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day, the equivalent of about 3/4 teaspoon, reduces the risk of high blood pressure.  To meet the daily potassium recommendation of at least 4,700 milligrams, consume fruits and vegetables that are sources of potassium including: sweet potatoes, beet greens, white potatoes, white beans, prune juice, and bananas.  These counteract some of sodium’s effects on blood pressure.  When choosing salt, get himalayan or sea salt as they are high in trace minerals as well.

Use the % Daily Value (% DV) column: 5% DV or less is low, and 20% DV or more is high.

Keep these low: saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium.

Get enough of these: potassium and fiber, vitamins A, C, and D, calcium, and iron.
Check the calories: 400 or more calories per serving of a single food item is high.

To learn more about Angela Sidlo or to get in touch, check out her web site.

Growing Forward

By Matt Stanley/General Manager
Published in the Co-op’s Winter 2017 Newsletter

I recently ran into Sarah, a regular Co-op shopper. She was excited to share with me her recent visit to Lexington Co-op in Buffalo, New York. I was excited to hear this, as Lexington Co-op is a favorite of mine for several reasons, and I haven’t even been there before!

Sarah noticed that they had the same Co+op Deals and many of the same products as our co-op. The store was abuzz with customers and staff. She said the retail area was larger but that it was similarly crammed with great products everywhere she turned.

We know our store and parking lot are getting pretty cramped, especially during peak times. For staff, the back rooms and office are often challenging to keep organized and difficult to navigate. Space is the main reason we are seeking to expand our store in the near future. And our pending expansion and current sales growth is the reason I love Lexington Co-op.

Lexington achieved an expansion in their recent history, and we’ll be seeking to emulate them soon. Their co-op stands as an example of successful, well-planned growth. And it also continually reminds me of the importance of collaboration among cooperatives.

Store frontFor their expansion, the Lexington Co-op issued preferred shares to their owners and raised $2.5 million for their project. We’ve been working with them to plan our own campaign – they’ve shared campaign strategies and materials. So they’ve set a great example and exemplify collaboration.

I know lots of folks are wondering when we’ll launch our own capital campaign.  Lots of pieces have to come together for us to launch the campaign. But trust me, when we do launch the offering (most likely in 2017), Co-op owners will not be able to miss it! We’ll make a pretty big deal out of it, since it will be key to successfully building our own new co-op.

Oh, and the great deals that looked awfully familiar to Sarah? Co+op Deals are the result of a huge collaboration between 151 food co-ops operating over 200 stores across the country. Our small store in Astoria is able to offer competitive pricing (not just Co+op Deals) because we pool resources with other food co-ops! And our collaboration with these fellow cooperators does so much more. My favorite work with the staff of these other stores is the opportunity to learn from each other and develop our careers in the challenging but often rewarding natural foods world.

Finally, if you check out the Lexington Co-op webpage, you’ll see that they are already working on opening a second store! They surely are committed to growing the food cooperative movement! May we do the same in our store’s future!

New Holiday Products

You know what’s great? When companies make the holiday things all the kids want, with great ingredients! Check out these new products we got in for the holidays:

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Check the back of the peppermint marshmallow bag for a recipe for all natural crispy rice cereal bars. Happy holidays from the Co-op!

Holiday Pie

The wonderful cooks in our deli are making holiday pies this year.  Pumpkin and apple are available.  They’re made with high quality organic ingredients.  Got a special diet?  No problem!  Gluten free options are available for both types of pie and our apple pies are vegan.  Just talk to a cashier to order your pie and we’ll have it ready to pickup the day before Thanksgiving.

Prices: $19.99 each ($20.99 for gluten free)

 

Turkey Time

roast-turkeyWe’ve carried Mary’s Turkeys for many years and have been impressed with the quality. This year our free range birds have been raised with non-GMO feed! As you can see in our Fresh Deals flyer, they’re priced to sell, first come first served.

We also have a limited number of organic turkeys in stock.

The turkeys are frozen, so please be sure and allow for adequate thawing time in your refrigerator.  Click here for defrosting information and roasting times.

Recipe Contest

The most common question our produce team hears this time a year is “what is that?” Nine times out of ten the question refers to a knobby, scraggly, pale-green vegetable known as celeriac or celery root. While it can be intimidating to first reach for celeriac, the rewards of getting to know this flavorful root are well worth the time.

Got a great celeriac recipe for our newsletter?  Email zetty@astoria.coop.  $25 prize for the recipe we select.  Deadline for submitting recipes: November 4, 2016.  Please make sure it is your own original recipe.  (If it’s adapted from another recipe, please let us know.)

Food Film

UNBROKEN GROUND (2016) – FREE!
Sunday October 23 noon-12:30
Liberty Theater 1203 Commercial Street Astoria, OR
Astoria International Film Festival

unbroken-ground
Our food choices are deeply connected to climate change. Unbroken Ground, a compelling new Patagonia Provisions film directed by Chris Malloy, explains the critical role food will play in the next frontier of our efforts to solve the environmental crisis.

Click here to watch the trailer.

SPONSORED BY:
Astoria Co-op Grocery

Beans for Bags

IMG_5956When you bring a reusable shopping bag to the Co-op you’re doing something really cool not only for our entire planet but for our community as well.  The Co-op takes the money (a nickel) that we would have spent on a bag and gives it to a local non-profit.  A token representing the nickel is a bean.  A cashier will give you a bean for each reusable bag you use and you get to drop it in a jar of your choice representing one of three local charities.

We totally have really nice paper bags for anyone to use, but Beans for Bags offers a fun incentive for reusable bags that fund some important programs.

Recipients January-March 2017:

Lower Columbia Q Center’s mission is to be a safe and welcoming resource and support service to the LGBT community, friends, families, and allies of the lower Columbia Region.

Columbia Senior Diners is a nonprofit struggling to make ends meet.  It provides low cost lunches at the Astoria Senior Center.  Seniors who cannot join others in the dining area can have meals delivered to their homes.

Astoria High School Orchestra is planning an educational trip to Disneyland.  The student musicians would have an opportunity to play their instruments as an ensemble for critique and add the music in the final performance to animation.

Click here for an application to become a Beans for Bags recipient.  The Co-op Board of Directors will select new recipients for the final quarter of this year.