Just about a year ago, CoFED was gearing up to launch our first Regional Organizer Fellowship. The Fellowship was designed, on the advice of previous Regional Organizers (ROs), to prioritize ongoing training, support, and professional development opportunities. We were amazed to receive more than 80 applicants, and chose a group of 5 amazing young leaders who the CoFED network has grown to love and appreciate! They have worked to train, connect, and “inspiregize” college students to start and improve student-run food cooperatives across North America. Now, as the year-long experience is coming to a close, we’d like to update the network about where CoFED is headed from this first class of Fellows, and say THANK YOU to the ROs and all that they have accomplished:
Early this spring, just after break and just before the crunch of finals, over 50 young cooperators converged at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina for what proved to be an amazing weekend. Folks from Indiana to Maryland to North Carolina learned together, from each other, became more excited about their co-ops, and most importantly built a sense of community and this movement together. I have to say, I didn’t know what this year as the Mid-Atlantic & Southeast Regional Organizer was going to be like, but sharing that space with so many amazing people working on equally inspiring projects, was a loud and clear confirmation of the importance of this work.
(Rose City, the Greenleaf, UNCG, Firestorm, and Maryland Food Collective members; after other teams had left on Sunday)
After the Winter months of planning by students of cooperation, the Northeast Student Cooperative Convergence in Amherst, MA happened & was beautiful!
CoFED's Regional Organizers are spread out across the country doing amazing work to support and connect student-run food coops in and across regions. A few times a year, they get to come together for the joyous occasion of face-to-face contact -- no more Skype fuzz or Google Hangout hats keeping them a part! The mid-year retreat provides them with further team-building and training that builds upon the work that they have accomplished thus far in the Fellowship, and of course, gets them stoked to continue their organizing efforts in the second half of the school year. Here are some of the highlights...
Our community continues to grow, as people share their passions and support something they love!
Every year we hire a handful of interns who are looking to learn more about food and the cooperative world. We create an opportunity for them to explore these interests, make connections, and gain skills. This new year Lauryl will be working with Brian Clement to organize the Northeast Spring Student Cooperative Convergence!
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join more than seven thousand youth activists from around the country in Pittsburgh for an inspiring and empowering three days, filled with peer-led workshops, panels, breakouts, and keynotes, culminating in a protest march through the streets and an occupation of a local official’s office that had approved fracking in county parks.
[Activists marching across the Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh. Photo Credit: Julian Ehrlich]
We came together to learn more about the different problems caused by the fossil fuel economy in communities all around our country, hearing stories from those being directly impacted first hand. We came together to share the work that we, the people in those communities and their allies, are doing to fight back. We came together to envision what an equitable, just, and thriving future could look like and plan how we are going to make it happen. We came together to organize, strategize, commiserate, and celebrate. We came together for Power Shift 2013.
-October 10, 2013-
I’m starting off the road trip to meet up with Yahya in the land of some of the greenest trees I've ever seen and I’m always excited to get to visit a cooperative I have had the honor to know & love for going on a year now: Down To Earth Food Coop (DTE).
But seriously, they're the most lovable. It's not hard.
Yahya and I go on an adventure with Paul and Lauren to the Goodwill where Paul is getting supplies for constructing a water filter gift, Lauren finds an awesome collection of jars for keeping all the things in, and we find a sturdy table cloth for banner making purposes. On this visit, I also catch a cold, an auspicious beginning for any journey, but Yahya makes some magic garlic ginger lemon honey cayenne tea and I fight it by napping on the futon. The no-bake cookies Libby offers for breakfast-DTE’s catering Newark Bike Project’s opening in their new location-also help. Member dinner features wild foraged foods: chicken of the woods mushrooms, Chinese chestnut, nettles: if I were to choose a place to get sick and try to get well, this would definitely be it. There is some good kitchen table conversation with Elana, Libby and Lauren about some great questions around how to direct the energies of the group, to divide labor equitably, to continue to empower people, size & structure, food politics, & baking times. These are all great problems to have and DTE has opened up space to negotiate and debate these in a way that wasn't offered by corporate foodservice at U Del.
As you may recall from my writings on Auburn, this big school thing is new to me. Yet, while there is learning curve for me in understanding the campus contexts of the schools like Auburn, UNC, and Towson (North of Baltimore); the people I am meeting fill me only with familiar inspiration and excitement!
This is the story of my journey to the Forest Moon of Endor.
I was introduced via email to Tori through Jon Berger of Real Food Challenge. She is interested in starting a cafe/restaurant on her campus, stemming from her involvement with the on campus urban farm. Once again, through our phone calls and skype chats, I thought that things would be hard and that Chartwells would be a monolith in our way. Once again, visiting campus exposed some beautiful loopholes.
CoFED staffers - Lauryl Berger-Chun, Yahya Alazrak, Ruby Levine, Anna Isaacs, and Farzana Serang - can't wait for the NASCO Institute this year! CoFED's work is at the heart of food justice and cooperatives, and so we are especially excited about this year's theme, "A Fire in Our Bellies".
Why can't it just hurry up and be November 1st already!?