Report from the General Manager

As I am sure many of you are, I am so grateful for March’s arrival! The sun is getting stronger and things are warming up. There’s a lot to look forward to right now! With the warmer weather, going outside gets easier (as a mother of a 6 year old, this is something I am very much looking forward to!), it also signals the imminent arrival of some of Ontario’s earliest crops and means we will soon see the faces of some of our farmers once again.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since we first had to respond to COVID-19 and where our lives changed so much. Time is now measured in terms of COVID – what happened or how things used to be before COVID and everything that followed. Many things at the store have changed over the year. From shopping and administrative procedures, to shopping flow, to the community feeling our store is well known and loved for, and to our jobs as Karma staff, we had to very quickly shift our “business as usual”.

Change is not easy, and the current circumstances are certainly no exception! For everything that has changed, I am amazed at the outpouring of support, appreciation and recognition of the work and energy it takes to operate and work in a grocery store under the current conditions. I am so grateful to all the members who donate to the staff fund (Yes! There is a fund you can donate to show your appreciation for Karma staff! Simply ask to make a donation at the cash, or tack one on to your order for pick up or delivery), to the co-op, and to all the members who contribute their valuable time to the co-op through in store or committee and Board work. I can’t say thank you enough. Your contributions mean a lot and make our store the true gem that is.

On the topic of change, the staff and I have been getting a lot of questions about our preference for one person per household shopping at any given time. While we appreciate that shopping can be a social outing for many, the more people we are all in contact with, puts us all at greater risk. Unless there is a reason a second shopper is needed (ie assisting or caring for a vulnerable person, or assisting someone with mobility issues), the one shopper policy is something we encourage all to adhere to as it limits exposure.

The reason we prefer one shopper per household, is not only to keep numbers down during our busiest times, it is mostly to limit potential exposure. Less contact is the number one way we can reduce exposure. Having two people shopping instead of one, increases the possibility of exposure for yourselves, staff and other shoppers. Also, it is our experience that folks who shop together talk more (with each other) than a single person which more than doubles exposure since those talking emit more droplets compared to someone who is not talking.

We realize this is challenging, inconvenient and may seem inhospitable, however, shopping solo makes our workplace and store safer to work and shop. Other stores, like Fiesta Farms for example, are also encouraging shoppers to shop alone. Why? Because it better protects their frontline workers and other shoppers by reducing the number of people we are all exposed to. If you are able, please shop alone.

I am incredibly grateful that we have not had a single case of COVID among staff *knock really hard on a really big piece of wood*. We have navigated our new roles as frontline workers with gravity, diligence and a good sense of humour. All of this, coupled with the respect among members for the new policies, are what have helped keep us safe and healthy on the job and are what have helped keep the store open. We appreciate your understanding and continued support in our policies as we continue to navigate through the pandemic.

As some of you know, at the end of February we said goodbye to Prue. Over the last 3 years, members have gotten to know Prue for her bubbly, friendly and easy going nature. Her energy and laughter will be greatly missed by staff and members alike. Prue is leaving her position as Health and Beauty buyer at Karma to pursue a life in the country. Good luck with what lies ahead Prue! We will miss you greatly.

With a goodbye is always a hello. Micah is our newest team member! Micah comes to us with lots of co-op experience. Originally from New York City, they grew up as a Park Slope Co-op kid where they helped with produce maintenance and helped members carry out their groceries. They are currently a music student at U of T and are also Chair of Campus Co-operative Residences Inc (CCRI). Welcome Micah!

I miss the ease of conversations in the aisles at Karma. I miss the workshops and in person orientations. I miss seeing all of your faces. I am hopeful the time will soon be upon us where we can all shop and talk together with ease once again. At least with the warmer weather upon us, we will be able to take conversations outside and connect with each other while enjoying the sun and fresh spring air. Thank you again for all your support over the past year. With good food, we will and are getting through this! ❤️

Be well,

Talia

ODE TO A KARMA BUNDLE-BUGGY

by Arthur Jacobs

A Bundle-Buggy (BB) is not to be confused with
a grocery store shopping cart, or the virtual on-line check-out version.
Our Buggy has reached the age of recognition!
BB has turned 26-years old.
The 1995 date-code,
stamped on the cardboard box
lining the inside of its basket,
tells me so.
BB has completed hundreds of trips to Karma Co-op.
More than 500 Kms. – A Toronto to Montreal distance.
Return loads total; 18,000 kgs.
A tractor-trailer’s load equivalence.
BB is low maintenance.
When I hear a squeal,
a drop of oil to the sounding wheel.
Ready to roll.
The rubber tires are checked and worn.
Its wire basket slightly bent.
Myself, as the horse before the buggy,
my frame also slightly bent.
My energy not all spent.
With delight, I’m happy to draw home,
Karma’s, Bundle-of-Joy!

Keeping Food Fresh

by Jennifer Knoch

Karma shoppers take so much care in buying their food, but there are great ways to extend that care, and your food’s life, once you get home. Not only does that save money and resources, but cracking down on our food waste is a top climate change intervention according to international scientists at Drawdown. So let’s review a few ways to keep that food fresh longer.

Fruit and veg

  • Don’t wash food until you’re ready to eat it and avoid storing fruit or veg wet.
  • Loosen any produce from elastic bands and twist ties as soon as it gets home. Remove any mushy bits.
  • Some fruits release ethylene gas, which can cause other produce to rot prematurely. So isolate those gassy fruits in their own drawer.
  • Most fruits ripen best at room temperature, but if you want to slow things down, put them in the fridge. (I love doing this with avocados.)
  • Separate green tops from root veg as soon as you get home, and store them separately.
  • Store your onions, garlic, and potatoes in the pantry, but separate the taters from the alliums, which don’t like moisture. (I was doing this wrong my whole life!) Keep potatoes out of the light and they won’t get that greenish tinge, which also makes them less safe to eat.
  • If you buy one of those clamshells of greens, once you’ve opened it put a tea towel or paper towel on top to absorb moisture and store it upside down. This is also useful anytime you’ve washed too many greens.
  • Leafy herbs do well treated like flowers, with the bottoms of their stems in water. Some people put a plastic bag on top to keep in the humidity. More pro tips on storing herbs here.
  • I store lots of my produce in plastic, which can extend the life of veg, but I rarely take a bag from the store: I reuse bags from bread, etc., and they work great. Most vegetables will have the longest life inside the crisper drawer, which prevents them from drying out.
  • If your leafy greens are looking lacklustre, soak them in cold water before using. This works for celery and many other desiccated vegetables too.
  • Lots of fruit and veg freezes very well, and it can be a power move that snatches it from the jaws of the compost. I first freeze berries on cookie sheets so they don’t stick together, then store in a (reused) freezer bag. Some vegetables freeze better if blanched (boiled for 1 min, then dunked in cool water). Keep in mind that anything stored in the freezer door is most likely to suffer freezer burn, so use that space for things you’ll eat quickly (I put bread there) or stuff like freezer packs.

Dairy

  • Keep milk and yogurt in the coldest part of your fridge (the top shelf).
  • Cheese likes to be cold too, so don’t store it in the door. Storing it in its own drawer will help it maintain its humidity. Cheese also doesn’t love being wrapped in plastic, so cheese experts recommend rewrapping in parchment paper, and I use beeswax wraps. Cheese will lose its texture if frozen, but it can be fine if melted (a delicious cheese state!).
  • Don’t put your eggs in the fridge door, even if there’s a tempting little egg holder there. It’s a trick! That’s the warmest part of your fridge, and eggs like a solid chill.

Pantry items

  • Those healthy unsaturated fats in nuts and seeds will go rancid at room temperature in a couple of months. Storing them in airtight containers helps, as does keeping them out of the light, but in the fridge they’ll store up to six months, and in the freezer up to a year.
  • Spices will stay fresh longer (up to two years) if you grind them yourself; otherwise they get a lot less potent after six months. Don’t shake spices directly from the jar to a steaming pot — you’re inviting in moisture, which will speed up their degradation.
  • Most cooking oils will last up to a year in a cool, dry place, though sesame oil is best kept in the fridge.
  • Flours should be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark place, but can also be frozen: this is especially important for any whole grain flours, which go rancid more quickly. Bonus: if you have problems with pantry moths or other creepy crawlies, four days in the freezer will make sure they’re good and dead.

Celebrating our Black Suppliers

In celebration of Black Histories/Futures Month, we’d like to showcase some of our Black suppliers. Karma would be nothing without the products on our shelves and the amazing suppliers behind them.

We want to increase our products sourced from BIPOC suppliers. This is an area we need to improve on if our products are to reflect the diversity of our community. If there are BIPOC makers/shakers/business owners you think Karma should be partnering with, please connect us!

It’s Souper – Afro-Fusion prepared sauces and soups

Lola Adeyemi of It’s Souper

Like many things of beauty “It’s Souper” began as a dream and a way to find a place in a diverse community for Nigerian born, Lola Adeyemi, but has since grown far beyond that.  Using only the freshest ingredients,  Lola’s Afro-Fusion Gourmet Soup and Sauce line was inspired by the fusion of cultures that exist in Canada, a yearning for authentic flavours from Africa, and a desire to share it with her community. You can’t go wrong with any of her products which are new to Karma! They are all delicious and we’re thrilled to now have them on our shelves. Read more about Lola and her journey as a Black woman entrepreneur here

Recipe Idea: Jollof rice is a delicious West African rice dish where the rice is cooked in tomatoes and spices. Throw in your favourite veggies and protein of choice and you have a delicious one pot meal. There are many recipes and variations for jollof on the internet like this one. Choose one that suits you.  

The pepper sauce from It’s Souper, makes jollof a cinch to make and gives it a delicious flavour. Lola shared her tips with us on how to make a delicious pot of jollof. “Our Pepper Sauce eliminates half of the work to make this meal. All you need to do is add your parboiled rice and cook it in the pepper sauce until soft, if it’s too spicy for your taste you can add some tomato puree which also helps make the rice have a deeper reddish colour. You can also add mixed veggies minutes before taking it off the stove. To avoid the rice getting soggy, only add water/broth intermittently – and it’s ok if it burns a little at the bottom 🙂.” 

Choose Life Foods Vegan Jamaican Patties

Carolyn Simon of Choose Life Foods

Carolyn Simon and her siblings grew up loving Jamaican patties. When she was trying to transition to a plant-based diet, she was frustrated at not finding a vegan alternative that reminded her of the patties she loved growing up. She decided to start making her own and soon her family and friends were asking repeatedly why she wasn’t selling them. Thus, Choose Life Foods was born, offering vegan Jamaican patties made with natural and quality ingredients! These amazing patties are perfect for a mid afternoon snack, or, if served with a side of veg, a full on meal. They’re a favourite among the Karma staff! Find ‘em in our freezer, and maybe buy a few. You’ll be glad you did. 😉

Nerpy’s Hot Sauce

Nerpy’s amazing line up of award winning sauces and marinades

Michael from Nerpy’s® Inc. began making his award winning hot sauces in 2008 in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Perfect with roasted veggies and meat, Michael’s sauces and marinades are among our favourites here at Karma and are a quick easy way to taste the flavours of Jamaica!

DYK? Fun Food Fact…

by Nathalie Remond, on behalf of the Food Issues Committee.

Like most fruit and vegetables, the peel is the most nutritious part of an orange. The way we traditionally peel it results in discarding nutrients with many health benefits. Numerous delicious recipes wisely use grated orange peels for flavour in marmalades, cakes and pies.

A recent study has found that the white part of the skin, often called pith, also has health benefits. It has fourteen times more antioxidants than the juice, and phenolics, hesperidin and total flavonoids concentrations are linearly correlated with the antioxidant activity  [1]. Every time you choose recipes with unpeeled oranges, you enhance the health benefits of your meal, reduce waste, and increase the value for money of your purchases.

Photo by okeykat on Unsplash

Contrary to general belief, the white part of the skin is not bitter like in grapefruit. It is really tasteless, as it is in lemons. Among the varieties that Karma offers, you will have more pith if you choose Navel or Cara Cara rather than the thin-skinned Valencia and Blood oranges.

Next time you peel a Navel or a Cara Cara orange, try using a peeling knife in order to leave more pith on the orange. If your orange has a pretty skin, use it as a gorgeous garnish in an upcoming meal or, beverage!

[1] https://www.longdom.org/proceedings/phytochemicals-and-antioxidant-activity-of-orange-fractions-citrus-sinensis-l-32383.html

Is the Almond Milk We are Drinking Bad for the Bees?

by Helena Friesen, with additional research by M. B. Shaw, for the Food Issues Committee

The Food Issues Committee has been asked to look into the question of whether our increasing consumption of almond products is contributing to the decline in bees (1).  How almond farming practices are related to the health of bees may interest members who buy any of Karma’s almond products including almond milk, almond-based products such as yogurt and flour, and almonds in bulk.  All North American almond products come from almonds grown in California.

Photo by Bill Nino on Unsplash

These almonds require bees.  And bees are not doing well. For the last decade and a half, American beekeepers have been losing in the neighbourhood of 30% of their hives each year; in the winter of 2018-19, it was 38% (2). Several factors are thought to contribute to high bee mortality (3):

  1. Parasites

The single most serious problem identified by beekeepers is the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, whichcan weaken bees and spread viruses (4).  Varroa is an invasive species from Asia and European honeybees, such as those kept in the United States, are especially vulnerable.  

  • Migratory Beekeeping

California has 1.5 million acres of almond orchards, producing over 80% of the world’s almonds.  At flowering time, there are not enough wild bees to pollinate all the almond flowers.  So, every February, commercial beekeepers are paid to truck their hives, comprising over 70% of the nation’s commercial bees, to California’s Central Valley, with stays of up to 2 months (5,6). Bringing so many bees together all at once increases the likelihood that they will exchange viruses, mites and fungi (7,8). 

  • Monoculture Farming

The cultivation of a single crop in a given area, such as is used on almond farms, is a third factor. Forcing bees to gather pollen and nectar from a single crop means they suffer from nutritional stress due to lack of diversity in their diet (3).  

  • Pesticides

Another factor that has been demonstrated to affect the health of bees is the use of pesticides, including use at sublethal levels (3,9).

Steps being taken to protect bees:

Hiring bees is expensive and both beekeepers and almond farmers are motivated to keep bees healthy.

Programs have been introduced to make farms safer for bees, including Bee Where, in which beekeepers alert pesticide applicators to the position of hives (10).  There are also certification programs, including Bee Better and Bee Friendly Farming (BFF), in which farmers increase biodiversity by offering a variety of flowering plants and forage to provide good nutrition for bees, habitat for nesting, water and reduced use of pesticides (11). Organic is generally recognized as equivalent to BFF while Bee Better is more demanding.

In February 2020, 10% of almond farmers met BFF criteria. Look out for products labelled BFF or Bee Better as these may become more recognizable in the years to come.

Almonds are not the primary culprit in the decline of bees, but the monoculture farming and migratory beekeeping prevalent in California likely play a role, as does the use of pesticides. The best option for bees might be to direct our choices toward farming practices that are more friendly to bees, and to buy more seasonal and more local food.

The Food Issues Committee (FIC) knows that our members are conscientious food consumers who value the Karma Product Policy (12).  One role of the FIC is to provide members with information so that they can make informed choices.   The FIC is currently reviewing Karma’s almond products using our Product Matrix, a decision-making guide based on our Product Policy, and we will communicate the results of this review.

  1. https://actions.sumofus.org/a/is-almond-milk-vegan-not-if-bees-are-killed-to-make-it
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190619142532.htm
  3. https://www.ars.usda.gov/oc/br/ccd/index/
  4. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/07/breeders-toughen-bees-resist-deadly-mites
  5. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/Specialty_and_Other_Releases/Almond/Acreage/202004almac.pdf
  6. https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2020/02/07/SPECIAL-REPORT-Bee-friendly-Pollinating-California-s-almond-crop
  7. http://completebeehives.com/what-is-migratory-beekeeping/
  8. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/migratory-beekeeping-mind-boggling-math/
  9. Chmiel, J. A. et al., Understanding the Effects of Sublethal Pesticide Exposure on Honey Bees: A Role for Probiotics as Mediators of Environmental Stress. Front. Ecol. Evol., 19 February 2020. Article 22
  10. https://beewherecalifornia.com/
  11. https://beebettercertified.org/
  12. https://karmacoop.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Product-Policy-Revisions_final.pdf

Karma’s first building condition assessment guides our planning

Karma’s first building condition assessment conducted by CMS Building Consultants & Engineers in 2020 outlines the essential building repairs and improvements required over the next 10 years. A summary of the capital needs below is pulled from the report with cost estimates. The full report is available to all interested Karma members by emailing Andrea Dawber at president@karmacoop.org.

Karma has not been able to build up a capital reserve fund over the past decade. Today, Karma’s financial health continues to improve with successive surpluses for the past two years, and a number of collaborative initiatives are currently underway to modernize, grow, and adapt our business to compete in the world of organic grocery retail.

Below is a list of priority projects for the next five years with the corresponding costs in 2020 dollars.

PRIORITY 1 (2021) 

1. Building structure (rebuild north wall and roof supporting structure in east bldg) $100,000.00 

2. Exterior caulking (roof, windows, doors, etc.) $5,000.00 

3. Thermographic scanning (to identify where energy efficiency/cost savings can be made) $700.00 

4. Electrical repair contingency (i.e. replace old, ungrounded, cloth covered wiring connected to new junction boxes in east bldg.) $4,000.00 

Total $109,700.00 

PRIORITY 2 (2022) 

1. Partition brick walls $5,000.00 

2. Skylights $6,000.00 

3. New walkway $7,500.00 

Total $18,500.00 

PRIORITY 3 (2023) 

1. Condenser replacement $5,000.00 

2. Equipment replacement contingency $40,000.00

3. Replacement of Romex (electrical) cables $1,500.00

Total $46,500.00 

PRIORITY 4 (2024) 

1. Main entrance door – wood doors (retrofit) $3,000.00 

2. Meeting room exterior door (retrofit) 

3. Commercial window replacement $10,000.00

4. Drywall ceiling and partition walls $50,000.00

5. Interior doors (retrofit) $2,000.00 

$65,000.00

PRIORITY 5 (2025) 

1. Main entrance door – glass door (retrofit) $1,000.00 

2.  Scoping and power flushing drains $5,000.00 

4. Repair contingency 

5. Domestic hot water tank replacement $1,100.00 

Total $7,100.00 

Please note estimated, budgeted items are subject to the review of the Building Code Consultant.

TOTAL 2021-25 EXPENSES: $246,800 (without HST, inflation, design, professional and permit fees) 

Should Karma wish to remain in the property for the next 10 years, the following projects shall also be considered for 2026-2030: 

MID-TERM PRIORITY PROJECTS (for the next 5-10 years): COST ESTIMATES (in 2020 dollars) 

1. Flat roofing system – east building roof $40,000.00

2. Flat roofing system – west building roof

3. Slab-on grade (leveling) $85,000.00 

4. Condenser replacement (2) $10,000.00

5. Building condition assessment/reserve fund study update $6,500.00 

3. Accessibility audit $4,500.00

4. Accessibility audit (improvements) $30,000.00 

TOTAL 2026-2030 EXPENSES: $176,000.00 (without HST, inflation, design, professional and permit fees) 

These are major costs, and the board will be working closely with the GM, the Building, Finance, Donations, and Marketing committees to develop a plan to pay for the necessary work over the next 5 years.  And, as a community, we may wish to revisit our long-standing conversations about remaining at our current location or relocating to a building better suited to our needs. 

Andrea Dawber, Karma President

president@karmacoop.org

P.S. Until we are able to build up a significant capital reserve, we’ll be seeking donations from you towards our Future Fund to support our immediate and most urgent building renewal projects. We’re also exploring financing options to help fund the structural work that must be completed in 2021. 

Karma Shopper Survey

by Kristy van Beek

Last June, Karma conducted a survey to learn more about you and what you would like to see and experience at Karma. A big thank you to the 333 people who took the time to share their valuable feedback with the co-op.
We heard loud and clear what members love most about Karma. Ethical practices, local producers, quality organic products, democratic ownership of our grocery store, a relaxed shopping atmosphere and a nourishing community. Karma has always been a place for conscientious food consumers to congregate, commune, support and shape a better food system here in Toronto. We will continue to focus on, strengthen and grow these aspects of our co-op.

In order for Karma to grow, it is equally important to be honest in identifying opportunities for improvement within our store as well. Opportunities that were identified to strengthen Karma include improving the in-store member experience, strengthening our member benefits offering, and implementing changes which make Karma more inclusive and inviting to a broader and more diverse member base.

Some changes you may have noticed since the survey was conducted include improved customer service, adjustments to our pandemic response, the reintroduction of the bring-your-own-container program, and changes to our hours of operation. You will soon see the suggestion box returned to the store so that members can provide feedback anytime.

In the coming months the Board of Directors will work collaboratively with our staff and the Marketing and Communications team to develop plans for training, policy changes, a membership campaign, as well as improved outreach and communications. We will continue to keep our members informed as new initiatives are developed.

Thank you all for your continued support of our incredible co-operative food store. 

Karma’s 2020 holiday campaign raises $11,500!

Thank you, Karma members and friends. This holiday season fifty-nine Karma members, past members, staff, trial shoppers and visitors gave generously to help strengthen and build our food co-op. Every dollar raised will be invested this year in essential building renewal projects. 

Thank you, Future Fund donors for your generosity and support!

Aidan Nulman

Alex Speers-Roesch

Andrea Dawber

Anne Shepherd

Anonymous donors

Art Jacobs & Keren Rice

Artemis Creates

Betsy Carter

Bev Biderman

Bob Biderman 

Beverly Shukyn

Bob Luker

Bradley Lennon

Caitlin Smith

Cathy Grandison

Carol Corner

Elenor Ward

Elizabeth Cowper

Elizabeth Nyburg

Francesca Allodi-Ross

Harriet Friedmann

Janet Heatherington

Jim O’Reilly

Jon Herberman

Katharine Gordon

Kathryn Humphrey

Kellie Marlow

Keri Johnston

Kristy Van Beek

Lalu Danzker

Laurie Matheson

Linda Rosegarten

Loren Lind

Mary Cerre

Matei David

Paul DeCampo

Reg McQuaid

Roberta Benson & Miriam Kaufman

Rusty Schteir

Melissa Skrebutenas

Sadie Godstein

Sara Diamond

Sarah Byck

Sheila & George Goodwin

Sylvie Turbide

Talia McGuire

Terry Costantino

Tomislav Svoboda

Welcome 2021!!

Happy 2021 Members!! I hope you all had a wonderful, restful holiday season filled with lots of good food! 

There is a lot being planned for the year ahead! The Board and committees have some great ideas and energy brewing that will continue to make Karma the most wonderful food co-op well into the future.  I am very excited! 

Thank you to all of you who have made donations to both the Staff and Future Funds over the last little while. I am always amazed at how dedicated and supportive members are of their co-op, and this is case in point! What wonderful co-op we have. Thank you all for contributing to our success!

In case you missed it, in mid December, we welcomed bulk chips to our product line! This has been met with much excitement! These fine chips come to us from The Chippery based in Kitchener/Waterloo, and are made with Ontario grown potatoes! They are delicious and they are a hit! We carry tortilla chips, ketchup, sea salt, salt and malt and all dressed! I hope you enjoy these as much as we have been!

Enjoy Karma members and welcome 2021!!

Talia McGuire

General Manager

Karma Co-operative