Co-op as base of operations for food's new foot soldiers

It has been a while since I shared a Mark Bittman piece on this blog. It's not that they haven't been worth sharing but I wanted to avoid the trap of simply linking every week to the inestimable Mr. Bittman. Come to think of it, might not be a bad idea. His latest is a piece about a new organization under the arm of the AmeriCorps program called the FoodCorps:
50 new foot soldiers in the war against ignorance in food. The service members, most of them in their 20s, just went to work at 41 sites in 10 states, from Maine to Oregon and Michigan to Mississippi. (FoodCorps concentrates on communities with high rates of childhood obesity or limited access to healthy food, though these days every state has communities like that.)
For a total budget of less than $2 million (mostly from foundations), this crew will be out there teaching kids about nutrition, showing them how to create gardens and generally connecting them with their food so that maybe they start think of food as something that comes from the ground, not from a box. It's a great program considering how moribund and underfunded nutrition education is AND how much cash is poured into anti-nutritious marketing. ($2 million is what McDonald's probably pays for one spot during the NFL's big game.) So where could a co-op fit into this? Time to engage in the "vision" thing for a second. But first, this would be a good time to remind ourselves of the mission of the South Philly Food Co-op:
To open a member-owned cooperative grocery store that provides nutritious food to all residents of South Philadelphia while empowering the local community through sustainable practices, food-centric education, outreach, and community building.
That's the difference with a cooperatively owned grocery store. When the profits stay in the community, the member-owners can decide to put some it towards, say, "adopt a Food Corps" and helping to subsidize part of their $15k annual salary. In exchange, the Co-op would be the base of operations for this foot foot soldier (or squad of them) and become a working classroom where parents and children learn how to find the best food at the fairest prices and what to do with it once they get home. End result: a healthier, fitter community; healthy, active kids whose brains are on full power. Together, we will own not just a food store but a social club, a place to learn, and the best kind of health care facility: one that helps prevent bad health from happening in the first place. Oh yeah... and buy your Garden Tour tickets.