Meet a Committee Member: Alison Fritz

On which committee do you serve?


Chair of the Steering Committee and Inter-committee liaison to the Outreach Committee.

What do you do for a living?

Associate Director of Donor Relations at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

How did you get involved with the food co-op?

I really enjoyed being a member of Weavers Way in Mt. Airy from 2003 - 2005, and wondered why there weren't more stores like it in Philadelphia. When my husband and I moved to South Philadelphia in 2008, I was encouraged to learn about a local buying club and previous co-op start-up activity. With the help of Weavers Way, we presented the co-op model at a neighborhood meeting in April and got a great response. The initiative took off from there and I've met some really wonderful people who I wouldn't have known without the help of the co-op (see! it's connecting us already!).

Why do you want a food co-op in South Philly?

Well, I love food. Love Food. Love eating it, cooking it, shopping for it, and talking about it. More than that, I think it's important to know where our food comes from, how it was grown or raised, how it has been processed, and ultimately how it got to the table and into our bodies. By being a part of a member-owned co-op, we will all get to exercise some small measure of ownership and control over these issues - while supporting the local economy and working together.

Why should people join a food co-op?

Really good food, support for local and socially responsible food suppliers, and a chance to get to know and work with your neighbors. One of the reasons I wanted to move to South Philly was to have a chance at the "neighborhoodness" (is that a word?) that I remember from my childhood. With all of the change and residential turnover that our community has seen over the last few years, this co-op could be one of the things that helps unite us again.

What is your favorite meal to cook and why?

Gosh, I don't know. It's hard to pick one dish because I really like to test our new recipes and our menu tends to be dictated by whatever we picked up in our CSA share that week. I guess the staples in my house are: homemade pizza, black bean burgers, hummus, roasted broccoli, and braised kale. I've also been on a bit of a kimchi kick lately.

I love the ritual of looking through my cookbooks and picking out new things to try, and then the act of prepping, chopping, bubbling, and sizzling. Sometimes the experience of preparing a meal can be more soul satisfying than actually eating it.
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5 ways the Co-op can help regional food security (and vice versa)

Though it applies to everything contributors to this blog write, it should be expressly stated that any opinions below are solely those of the author and DO NOT reflect any policies, rules, or decisions made the South Philly Food Co-op's steering, legal/finance, or outreach committees. Earlier this month the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) released "Eating Here: Greater Philadelphia’s Food System Plan" (abstract .pdf here). The report is the latest step in a process that began a couple years back with the convening of the Greater Philadelphia Food System Stakeholder Committee and the publication of The Greater Philadelphia Food System Study, "a large surveying effort and analysis that identified prominent stakeholders, successful programs, regional competitive advantages, recommendations for improvement, and differing interests." I spent the better part of the weekend reading through the full report specifically looking for ways that the report's message about food system security and its recommended actions could relate to the food co-op model and what we're trying to accomplish here in South Philadelphia. The report is full of recommendations that a co-op with the mission of the South Philly Food Co-op could help to make a reality. There are also a number of recommendations that if implemented could, in turn, make the co-op more viable and more competitive with corporate food retailers whose profit motive takes precedence - as it naturally should - often contributing to many of the poor dietary and environmental indicators cited in the report. (Keep reading below for some items I've pulled from the report. A warning, though, I tend to get a little wordy.) For example, on page 51 the report references the difficulties faced by farming and food businesses as they seek access to capital for start-up and expansion (a difficulty which this Co-op is seeking answers to right now). The report offers hope:

...many financial institutions have a growing interest in supporting sustainable businesses that have a triple-bottom line—people, profit and planet. Greater Philadelphia has a number of financial organizations interested in supporting the growing local food and healthy food movements, in addition to the emerging social enterprise movement.

It goes on to list a few of those institutions as examples. Obviously such institutions aren't going to throw money out there at every start-up food concern that comes along, but an organization with a large and growing number of dedicated individuals, who can prove that there is a market for the kind of mission-based business represented by this co-op can have hope of securing the support it needs. And while getting that critical mass of people is clearly the most difficult part of this process, being able to give them a reason to believe that their time, effort and money has a reasonably good chance of being leveraged into institutional financial support makes it just a little easier. The report also recommends making improvements to the supply chain so that the "efficiencies of the global food system" (think supermarket chains and big box retailers who also sell food) can be applied to the regional food system. The "direct market chain" - one system that a food co-op would support - in which producers are put directly in contact with consumers has the benefit "of providing consumers with detailed information about where and by whom the products are produced." (Actually, as a "middle man" of sorts, the co-op model may technically be an example of the hybrid or intermediated chain but connecting producer and consumer more directly can be among its goals.) In order to help, say, a small local co-op compete with the big players the report says:

Applying technological innovations already employed by the global food system to intermediated and direct market supply chains can increase transportation efficiencies, which in turn can lead to more affordable local products and more accurate information on product origins for the consumer.

The sooner the better! There are a number of ways the co-op (and existing co-ops in the region) could help the recommendations in the report become reality. In fact, a strong system of food co-ops (as mission-based, rather than purely profit-based businesses) could help implementation of all the recommendations in the report. But the following especially stood out: Promote the use of new technology and community-based communication outlets by all partners—government, private sector, and nonprofits—to educate people about healthy food. (p 59) Approaches to reduce hunger should emphasize creating jobs with livable wages and empowering those personally affected. (p 76) Though there's some argument about his motivations, Henry Ford's idea of paying his workers a high wage they could afford the cars he was selling is an example of how a co-op with a goal of paying its workers a living wage could help create a number of well-paying semi-skilled-labor jobs that in turn reduce poverty and hunger. Advocate for food labels that allow consumers to make more informed decisions and enable food producers to be more fully compensated. (p 77) I've written about fact-o-vore based eating before so it's no surprise that this is one of my primary motivations for wanting a co-op. Overall, the takeaway for any of us involved in starting a food co-op is that we're not doing this in a vacuum. As the report makes clear (just with its list of "stakeholders") these issues are being considered at some of the highest levels of regional government and by hundreds of different organizations. Food security, like energy security, will be one of the foremost issues of the 21st century. It's clear that the system that has been in place for the past 50 years or so needs to be fixed, if not totally overhauled. While we continue working on our community's part of this fix, the report ends with some recommendations for individuals:

Individuals can support the region’s economy and heritage by purchasing fresh, locally grown foods from a nearby farmers’ market or by joining a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm. If one has the space, growing a garden will improve a household’s food security. Many municipalities and some neighborhoods have composting programs. Private companies have started to meet the need to compost household food waste. The region has an extensive park and trail network, encouraging people to get outside, enjoy the outdoors, and exercise or commute to work. Lastly, individuals can protect open space and farmland by voting for municipal, county, and state funding referendums or becoming a member of a land trust.
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Pizza night

Dan and I had some friends over for recently for dinner, and while that’s usually an excuse for me start ripping through cookbooks and narrowing down the endless list of recipes I’ve been meaning to try, all I wanted to eat was pizza.  I’d been sick all week, had just spent the morning at those not-to-be-named big box home supply stores on South Philly picking out bathroom tile and shower heads, and it was a cold Saturday night.  I wanted pizza.  Totally fair, right?  But could I order up a couple of pies from Marra’s or FrancoLuigi’s and not feel like I was shirking my hostess responsibilities?   Was that totally lame?  How do I reconcile my pizza passion with wanting to provide a fun, tasty, home-cooked meal for my guests?   The answer came to me in a cloud of Theraflu and gray floor tiles: Make-your-own pizza party.

Brilliant.  It would be fun, creative, and delicious – totally perfect for a Saturday night with friends.

To start, roll out some dough – store bought or hand made – into personal sized pizzas.  We pre-baked ours on a pizza stone at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

 



The toppings are the real fun part – so use what you like.  Based on what was hanging around in our cupboards, we laid out: heart of palm, crispy tempeh bacon, red onions, kalamata olives, steamed broccoli, sautéed mushrooms, tomato sauce, pea shoot and walnut pesto (vegan, see below) and mozzarella cheese (of both the whole milk and vegan varieties).   We didn’t have any on hand, but roasted brussels sprouts would have been a slammin’ addition to the topping bar.  I love them on a pizza mixed with a little veggie bacon.


When guests arrive, invite them to take a pizza shell, add desired toppings, and put back in the oven for 10 – 15 (we did up to 20 minutes (depending on how crispy you like your crust).


We served the pizza with a green salad, (though in this case, I think the salad was just an excuse to toast up some gigantic croutons) and some cookies and cream (vegan) cupcakes.

 



And the recipes:

Pea shoot and walnut pesto:In a food processor or blender combine pea shoots (roughly 2 handfuls), basil (again, 'bout 2 handfuls), garlic (2-4 cloves) and pulse until roughly combined.  Add toasted walnuts (I used about half a cup) and pulse until walnuts are just chopped and incorporated.  With motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil; blend until well combined. Scrape pesto into a bowl.



Green salad with roasted tomatoes and croutons

For the Dressing

    • 1 small shallot, minced

 

    • 2 -3 tbsp. lemon juice

 

    • 2 tsp. mustard

 

    • ½ tsp. sugar

 

    • Large pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

    • olive oil



For the Salad

    • 5 or 6 slices good bread, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used focacia)

 

    • Olive oil

 

    • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

    • Good balsamic vinegar

 

    • 12 tomatoes – cherry, strawberry, or roma

 

    • 1 tsp. sugar

 

    • 12 basil leaves, julienned or torn

 

    • 3-4 handfuls lettuce leaves

 

    • ½ cup ricotta salata or feta broken into big crumbles (optional)



Make the Dressing
Mix shallot, lemon juice, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper in a wide mouth jar or other salad dressing making vessel.  Add the olive oil to taste.  Cover and shake or mix like hell with a whisk or fork.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Make the Salad
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Place the bread cubes on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a large pinch of salt over top and a few grinds of black pepper.  Toss well with your hands.  Place in the oven and bake until starting to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Set aside to give time to firm up a bit.

Turn the oven up to 425ºF.  Slice each tomato in half.  Set aside a few of them of them and seed the others (though I didn’t take the time to seed mine and it was just fine…).  Place on small baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, sugar (to help with caramelization), salt and a couple grinds of pepper.  Toss gently with your hands.  Carefully drizzle on just a bit of balsamic vinegar.  Bake until dark, caramelized and slightly collapsed, about 25 minutes.  Remove and set aside.

Place the croutons in a salad bowl.  Scrape the tomatoes and any juices over top.  Chop up the raw tomatoes and add them to the bowl along with the basil and the lettuce.  If using cheese, scatter it over top.  Dress the salad according to your taste, and toss carefully.  Add more dressing as needed.

Recipe for the vegan cookies and cream cupcakes can be found at the Peas & Thank You blog, a great resource for all kinds of vegan ideas. In fact, here I am with the computer on the kitchen island following that recipe:

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South Philly Food Co-op on Phoodie.info

Thanks to Phoodie.info for giving a mention of our upcoming Spring Community Forum! Questions about the forum can be directed to southphillyfoodcoop[at]gmail[dot]com or you can go on Facebook for more details and to RSVP.
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There's An App For That

Please join us for the South Philly Food Co-op's next event, "There's An App For That." It's Sunday, February 27th at 6 pm at the Philly Community Wellness at 1241 Carpenter Street. We're hosting an appetizer potluck and recipe exchange where we’ll also share and discuss our favorite food blogs, websites, apps, and cookbooks. By the end of the night will have full bellies, food inspiration, and a community generated blog post! What To Bring: Bring your ready to eat appetizer and a copy of the recipe. Also bring your a list of your favorite food or cooking blogs, apps, and cookbooks. If you feel like it, bring your copy of your favorite cookbook so others can browse through recipes and see what you like about the book. We'll Provide: There will be a sink and hot water for tea. We'll also provide plates, napkins and utensils. We will not have an oven available so if your dish needs to be hot, please cook it before you arrive. Please RSVP and look for more information on Facebook.
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Meet a Committee Member: Julie Haynes

On which committee do you serve?


I am currently the secretary for the Outreach Committee.

What do you do for a living?

I am a teacher.

How did you get involved with the food co-op?

A good friend.

Why do you want a food co-op in South Philly?

I am really interested in buying local food.

Why should people join a food co-op?

People should help support their community and want to educate the local population about healthy food.

What is your favorite meal to cook and why?

That's not a fair question to ask.  Too many.  Lots of seafood and vegetables.
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Minimalist gets a new home

I'm a recent convert to the work of Mark Bittman at the New York Times. In fact, before I got involved with this Co-op effort I had never really heard of him. Not being much of a cook myself, I had never really followed his Minimalist column but my impression was he made an effort to convince take-out and restaurant addicted Manhattanites that they could in fact cook for themselves with food they found at the corner bodega in a kitchen that was barely large enough to hold a medium-sized saucepan. I've visited many a friend who lives in Manhattan and can count on one hand the number of times I've seen any of them cook or even have non-perishable food in their apartments. So clearly Bittman's work was necessary and will be missed. He has since moved on to a weekly opinion column which moves away from recipes and lifestyle tips to policy discussions and pointed critiques of lifestyle choices (especially the one that thinks processed food are a way to save much needed net surfing time). His latest column poses the question about whether eating real food is even possible. Or, borrowing a slogan coined by his Times colleague Michael Pollan, is it possible to "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants"? The hook for this column was the recent release of the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 (which he acknowledges seems a little late but also explains the reason for). The much discussed criticism of the guidelines, which have otherwised been praised for finally acknowledging that Americans need to eat less (a "guideline" that goes against the USDA's other mission of promoting American manufactured and produced food) is that they are asymmetrical in that they explain which foods are good to eat but which nutrients should be avoided (being careful not to offend the meat or dairy industry by telling Americans to eat less meat or fewer Three Musketeers bars). We've tweeted about other food policy writers like Marion Nestle who have made this point and it is an important one. Until the USDA resolves this multiple personality disorder, the U.S. Federal government will continue to lack an agency or authority that is purely on the side of our nutritional well-being (HHS has WAY too much on its plate to play this role). So your reading assignment is to catch up on the new Bittman column, including the Food Manifesto that he kicked things off with and let what he writes bounce around your brain for a little bit. You may not agree with everything but at least it'll get you thinking about the choices you make when you go to hunt down your dinner at the local supermarket. It has for me!
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We Won!



Ignite Philly is part of a world-wide network that hosts semi-regular events where individuals and organizations give short 5 minute presentations to entertain and educate viewers on a wide variety of subjects. As Ignite describes it,

Each presenter is on stage for a total of 5 minutes (20 slides, at 15 seconds each slide). These talks are a ’spark’ if you will, they are lightning fast and leave people with a new idea to mull over and talk about.


Recently at Ignite Philly 6, Outreach Committee members Mary Beth Hertz and Julie Haynes gave a presentation on the SPFC and our goals of educating South Philadelphians on sustainable food practice and opening a member-owned community grocery store.

This week came the exciting news that the co-op was chosen as the winner of the last Ignite! As part of their goal to promote organizations that will have a meaningful and immediate impact on the community, the organizers chose us as the recipient of the proceeds from the door, a big boost to our initial fundraising.

Many thanks to the Ignite organizers and a hearty congrats to Mary Beth and Julie for their hard work. You can see video and slides of their presentation here and attend Ignite Philly 7 on Thursday, February 10 at Johnny Brenda's. Come on out, it's always a fun time.
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Meet a Committee Member: Josh Richards

On which committee do you serve?

Legal & Finance

What do you do for a living?

I am a lawyer.

How did you get involved with the food co-op?

I came to an open meeting at SPOAC and loved the idea of helping to open a food co-op.

Why do you want a food co-op in South Philly?

Access to high quality food is important to me and the community of a co-op is a great bonus.

Why should people join a food co-op?

Community and high-quality food plus knowing that the money they spend goes back into their own neighborhood.

What is your favorite meal to cook and why?

Deep dish veggie lasagna.  It's a fun process and the result can cheer up anyone.
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Factovore - or Fact-based Eating

I could never be a vegetarian. There are simply too many members of the animal kingdom that have had the misfortune of being made way to0 tasty by whichever process you tend to be believe in (whether God made the yellowfin tuna such a tasty sushi treat or it evolved over millions of years to find itself a desired part of my diet). I've also read and carefully considered the arguments made on both sides of the vegan/vegetarian vs. omnivore debate side for why we humans may or may not have evolved to eat meat. I'm not one to judge the choices anyone has made and I do think there is little argument against the idea that Americans in general eat waaaay too much beef, poultry, fish, etc. (a trend that is catching on around the world as developing countries try to be like us). So no. I won't be going cold turkey on cold turkey anytime soon. I do, however, want to try to line my own diet up with a sustainably acceptable (not to mention healthier) ratio of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to meat and dairy. But until recently, I struggled to find a simple rule or method to help me settle into that acceptable ratio (which I estimate is probably 2-3 servings of meat per week rather than the normal 2-3 servings per day that "the market" with its artificially low meat prices would guide one toward). Thankfully, right around the first of the year (when you're most likely to find such work) I read an account by a writer who was undergoing a similar struggle. Francis Lam writing for Salon laid out his "No Cheap Chicken" manifesto after being exhorted by a lunch meat brand to avoid its competitors' products by asking "How do you think the make cheap chicken?" The commercial was right. I have no idea exactly how they make cheap chicken (or cheap beef or cheap fish for that matter) but I've read enough Omnivore's Dilemma-type work and seen enough Food Inc.-type movies to know I don't really want to know. So, similar to Lam, I've made it my goal to eat only foods whose origins and production methods I am reasonably sure of. Food with facts. I will be a factovore. (Yep, just what you need, another term to throw in with ovo-lacto-vegetarian, locavore and agrarian-urbanist.) How does a Co-op (or a CSA of which Alison and I are members) help with this process? Answering this question goes a long way toward explaining my primary reason for wanting a local food co-op in this area. It can be about connecting consumers to the producers of their food more directly and minimizing the role of the agro-industrial complex that has come to touch almost every part of our food system. With the owners of the co-op being its customers (and not some number-crunching corporation) I can be assured that policies on what products to carry will be thoughtfully considered and be based on more than just the lowest possible price. How's the resolution going? On the meat end of things fairly well. The only beef I've eaten this month were hamburgers that came from cows raised on Alison's aunt and uncle's farm (so I REALLY know the producer) and I've avoided almost all other meat entirely (aside from the pepperoni I had a pizza a couple weeks ago). I'm still working on eating only fruits and vegetables whose origins I'm aware of and the Greens Grow CSA is helpful with that. Admittedly, giving up Reese's Peanut Butter cups and several other processed foods has been difficult. For all intents and purposes, choosing my diet based on knowing where my food comes from effectively rules out a lot of choices. How do I know exactly where the yellowfin tuna on the sushi came from? It also means paying a little more for other choices. But in the end, the price of a pound of sustainably-raised beef is an effective signal for just how much of it should be in my diet (which, in theory, could reduce other health-care related costs in the future). Feel free to share in the comments your own thought processes as you decide what foods to buy, cook and serve. In the future, in order to make this kind of decision-making a little more universally accessible, I hope to do a little more research into how to make these choices on a tight budget when "cheap calories" in processed foods and $0.99 per pound ground beef can be so tempting.
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