Break out sessions by Track

Operations Track

Engaging Diverse Partners for New Local Food Access Solutions

Tuesday, June 8, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. CT

Rachel Tefft, Community Nutrition Program Manager, PCC Community Markets
Jennifer Antos, Executive Director, The Neighborhood Farmers Markets
Maddie Price, Farm to Community Program Manager, Harvest Against Hunger

As the COVID-19 outbreak began spreading through the U.S., both our community’s needs and supply chains shifted fast. Our partner food banks faced a shortage of fresh produce, while local farmers were losing sales from the closure of Seattle farmers markets and restaurants. At the same time, volunteer gatherings like our bulk food packaging parties we had run for over 30 years at local food banks were suspended due to social distancing requirements. We knew we had to think creatively about how we could best show up for our community, and fast.

Through a collaboration with Neighbor Farmers Markets (NFM) and Harvest Against Hunger (HAH), we quickly identified an opportunity to connect local farmers needing markets with local food banks needing produce.

In this session, we will discuss the formation of this program and what we learned in our first year, what worked well, and what we are improving in 2021. We will share the importance the partnerships played in our ability to do this work so quickly, while centering the experience of the farms and food banks.  We will end with a conversation about our future plans for this program, directed by the feedback we have received from the farms and food banks involved. This session will feature the key players from each organization who created and ran this program in 2020 and who are now working together on improvements for 2021.

Target Audience: Co-op staff: marketing, outreach, and community relations staff


Prepared Foods in a Post-pandemic World

Wednesday, June 9, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. CT

Kristy Bowers, Co-op Resource Manager, National Co+op Grocers
Linda McCann, Prepared Foods Programming Manager, National Co+op Grocers

For most retailers, including retail food co-ops, prepared foods execution changed significantly during the pandemic. Most co-ops ceased self-serve hot table and salad bar operations, and many struggled to make the internal changes necessary to generate significant sales from other approaches. However, lost sales were recovered in other parts of the store from consumers forgoing restaurants in favor of food made at home. Once the restaurant business returns, what can co-ops do to revive prepared foods execution?

Co-op prepared food departments have been slowly eclipsed by fast casual dining and improved prepared foods at grocery competitors in recent years. Prepared foods programming has become formulaic, with offerings built around the needs and interest of a narrow portion of consumers. Co-ops need to find their place in the new prepared foods landscape in a sustainable way that leverages their strengths and creates excitement among consumers.

In this session, NCG will talk about recent strategies taken to improve prepared foods departments. Then we will focus on strategies that all co-ops can take to rebuild deli sales and reestablish a foothold in the local market.

Target Audience: Deli managers, store and operations managers, general managers 


Communities in Crisis: How Cooperatives Are Responding 

Thursday, June 10, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. CT

Julie O’Dwyer, Vice President of the Board of Directors, Ashland Food Co-op
Sal Mendivil, Store Director, Wheatsville Food Co-op
Raynardo Williams, Operations Manager, Seward Community Co-op
Moderator: David Lee, Vice President, Outpost Natural Foods

Here is the session description: In the last two years the global pandemic, an economic downturn, and several natural disasters have challenged our cooperatives and communities. Layered with ongoing structural racism and classism, and the continued violence against people of color, these crises are further exacerbating the disparities experienced by historically marginalized groups in our country. Many cooperatives have responded to these crises by partnering with local organizations to develop systems and programs that support their communities, including those who are most vulnerable. In this session, cooperative leaders will share what they are learning as they navigate and adapt to these crises, including strategies for developing effective community partnerships, important leadership qualities for managers and directors, and how to prepare for what lies ahead.

Target Audience: Directors, General Managers, Co-op staff: marketing, outreach, and community relations staff

Governance Track

Burnout, Boards and the GM Relationship: Creating a Community of Collective Care

Tuesday, June 8, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. CT

Carolee Colter, Consultant, Columinate
Mark Mulcahy, Consultant, Columinate

Burnout occurs in a chronic stressful environment with an overload of negatives and a scarcity of rewards. All co-op staff have been through an exhausting, stressful experience with the pandemic, but general managers are at particular risk of burnout as they carry the ultimate responsibility for the safety of their staff and community and the financial wellbeing of their co-ops. Meanwhile, individual board members have been living through their own pandemic challenges. While self-care (taking time off, exercise, meditation, etc.) can help with prevention of and recovery from burnout, recent research indicates that self-care is not enough. What most people really need is a community of collective care in which they give and receive acts of caring to and from each other.

For consumer co-ops, there is no relationship more important than the one between the board of directors and the general manager. A purely transactional relationship, or one fraught with tension or grievance, leaves both parties feeling drained and could result in board and/or manager turnover. In our session we will give boards and managers a framework for recognizing and preventing/recovering from burnout, a real-life story of a board-management relationship that was re-energized by acts of caring, and some practical tools for strengthening and repairing their own relationships

Target Audience: Board members, managers, co-op staff


Engaging with the Board Around Expansion and Change: Two GMs Share Stories and Wisdom

Wednesday, June 9, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. CT

Doug Johnson, General Manager, Belfast Food Co-op
Steve Nance, General Manager, Oryana Food Co-op
Moderator: Thane Joyal, Board Development Consultant, Columinate

Oryana in Traverse City, Michigan and Belfast Co-op in Belfast, Maine have at least two things in common: both co-ops are led by General Managers who previously served on their boards, and both co-ops actively and constructively engage their boards in discussions about expansion and growth. Oryana recently “bought the corporate competition” in the heart of Michigan’s cherry country!  Belfast is engaging with real choices about its future, serving now as a downtown anchor in this highly seasonal community at the heart of one of Maine’s poorest counties, Thane Joyal, Columinate board consultant will facilitate a dialogue between Steve Nance, Oryana General Manager, and Belfast’s GM Doug Johnson as they describe their paths toward growth and expansion and share insights derived from their own board service.

Target Audience: board members, general managers, department managers.


Why Are Female General Managers Paid Less Than Men?

Thursday, June 10, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. CT

Brittany Baird, Consultant, Columinate

Co-ops have long been championed as a means to circumnavigate the wealth inequality issues perpetuated by extractive capitalistic business models. Despite a history of commitment to values of social progress, survey data shows that grocery co-ops are severely lagging behind when it comes to the issue of gender pay equity. A recent examination of the Cooperative General Manager Compensation Database, co-managed by CoMetrics and Columinate, revealed that grocery co-op General Managers who identify as female are paid significantly less than their male counterparts.

This session will seek to explore the state of gender equity in our leadership and provoke more critical thinking on the topic. Unfortunately, the database doesn’t currently capture enough information to tell us about the intersectionality of disparities in pay and representation for those who may also be trans, non-binary, or people of color. What we do know right now is that self-reported data from primarily white led co-ops illuminates vast pay inequality between people who identified as men and women. Our current data merely scratches the surface of uncovering the deep societal bias and structural inequities that are being mirrored in our very own co-ops. Together we will work to shine a light on this important issue and bring the conversation into the open to be examined.

We will learn about techniques that can help create pathways of equity for our current and future leaders of all identities. Attendees will walk away with new insight and some concrete ideas for improving systems in their co-op culture that hold back leadership development. We will explore a range of implementable ideas about meeting facilitation and communication ground rules, mentorship, performance evaluation and salary negotiation, and more. We will also discuss how our personal experiences of imposter syndrome, worthiness, and communication discomfort can impact our ability to “move up the ladder”. This workshop welcomes both board members and co-op leaders of all gender identities who are interested in exploring the topic and the road map to inspire both personal and co-op sector change.

Target Audience: board members, general managers