Karma’s board is developing an operational plan that aims to address a number of long-standing issues in order to build a bright and secure food future for our community. The seven key areas identified for improvement include: IT/technology, financial management, organizational knowledge-sharing and succession, marketing and communications, space maximization, and efficacy (working smarter, not harder). The planning process will invite staff, members and committees to participate as we build out a workplan with timelines and use the document as a tracking tool over the next few years. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ensuring Karma is a great place to shop, work, visit and participate
Karma’s new Code of Conduct aims to move our values into practice, clarifying the co-operative, civil and mutually respectful behaviour expected from our community, including members, staff, visitors, suppliers and contractors. It also provides a process for reporting and responding to incidents. In a similar fashion, our Health & Safety Manual provides staff and members with policies and procedures to protect us from hazardous situations and to keep us all safe and healthy as we engage in work on behalf of our food co-op. If you would like to provide feedback about the Code of Conduct or the H & S Manual, please email Andrea Dawber, Karma’s President at email@example.com
The board is seeking members who wish to serve on the 2021-22 Karma Board of Directors. There are 10 members on Karma’s board, and five are completing the second year of their two-year terms. We are actively seeking nominees to fill these five two-year term positions as we prepare for our second virtual Annual General Meeting on Monday, October 18, 2021.
Do you have 6 hours a month to attend board meetings and carry out tasks specific to an assigned committee? Would you like to contribute to Karma and meet other members? We encourage all members to apply. We are seeking members with the following skills: governance experience, fundraising, legal, retail marketing, business management, and human resources.
The board is a great place to build skills in the cooperative sector. Please contact me, Caitlin Smith, Karma’s Vice President and Nominations Officer, at Vicepresident@karmacoop.org. All members are welcome to attend board meetings, including potential nominees. I will need to send you the meeting link, and our upcoming board meeting schedule is here.
The Karma Building Committee has been examining quotes for a much-needed repair to the north wall of our building. We have reached out to structural engineers to provide recommendations on remedial repairs that may be required. The review will also include a general assessment of the roof wood joist structure. Once that work has been done, we will be able to schedule the actual repairs, likely to take place in the summer of 2022.
Canada has become the sixth largest organic consumer market in the world. While Karma’s shelves reflect our policy to buy Canadian and local, not all foods can be produced domestically or have year-round availability. Recognizing and understanding international organic logos and their regulation is important for the discerning shopper.
To date, Canada has established ‘equivalency arrangements’ with the United States, European Union, Japan, Switzerland, Taiwan and Costa Rica for organic standards. These arrangements create reciprocity that deems these foreign countries policies and processes for organic standards to be equivalent to Canadian standards.
What about organic products from other countries such as China? By agreement through the US-Canada Equivalency Arrangement such products can be certified by the Canada Organic Regime (COR) or the US National Organic Program (NOP) as meeting Canadian standards. These products may then carry Canadian or US organic logos and labelling. COR is part of the Canadian Organic Office (COO) that is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
Cha’s Organic Coconut Milk is an example of a product produced in Sri Lanka, that carries the Canadian organic logo:
Silver Leaf olive oil from Greece is an example of organic logo from the EU:
Karma carries a number of products both fresh and packaged that are produced internationally, and all follow these standards and show similar labelling. The following link provides a gallery of the vast numbers of international logos that while they do not appear on product labels here, they show that there is a significant and growing worldwide focus on organic food production.
Importantly, Canada does not have equivalency arrangements with any country for aquaculture products (fish and any by-products, raised in controlled or managed environments). As of January 15, 2021, organic aquaculture products from any country other than Canada must have met Canadian organic standards through independent arrangement with suppliers that do meet the organic standards.
Seaweed products do however come under Canadian-US equivalency standards, and as above, independent arrangements can also be made to bring such products from other countries to Canada.
It is also interesting to note, that North American organic standards may not meet the stringent organic requirements of other countries. Trace amounts of pesticides, such as glyphosates found in GMO products used in conventional farming practices in North America, can, through air pollution and other possible means, contaminate Canadian (and US) organic products and make them unacceptable for export to international markets such as the European Union.
Envisioning a Nutrient-Secure and Just Food System
A member of the Board at Karma Co-op recently ranked food accessibility as their primary concern among a number of other food issues. Many people in the world and also in Toronto still struggle to acquire adequate food. Karma Co-op used to donate food to two food banks in the neighbourhood through the help of Karma members, and now has a weekly pick-up from the Parkdale Food Centre. The stay at home order during the pandemic has further exacerbated food insecurity. This has been a subject of attention for the Food Issues Committee.
In a conference that he gave in Toronto in September 2017, Ralph Martin, a professor at the department of Plant Agriculture of the University of Guelph, challenged the way we generally think of food accessibility and suggested that we envision what he called a “nutrient-secure and just food system“. This is an adroit way of reminding that not all foods have the same value in sustaining human life.
Professor Ralph Martin also stressed that, in Canada, what is often voiced as a food accessibility issue is in fact just one of the many aspects of an overall poverty issue, in which families with low budgets generally tend to “go calories first” when making choices among available foods.
In the light of the above, cheaper food, the solution that usually springs to mind first, may in fact increase the difficulties associated with food accessibility . It encourages systems that promote low-nutrient foods, thereby making it more difficult for farmers struggling to offer nutrient-rich products.
A few very interesting alternative approaches with a greater emphasis on sustainability and health were presented in this conference. They have been a rich source of inspiration to the Food Issues Committee. If you would like to listen to the conference and view it online, please follow the link below. The Food issues Committee would love to hear back from you if you are ready to share your reactions.
In recent years, many people are trying to follow a (more) plant-based diet. One plant-based source of protein is nuts. However, all nuts are not equal in terms of how far they travel to get to us, sustainability of farming practices, including the need for irrigation, and issues involving labour. Here we suggest some considerations in choosing nuts.
Almonds, walnuts, pistachios
Grown in: California, the Mediterranean
Karma’s almonds are from Spain and California, walnuts and pistachios from California.
Farming practices: monoculture; use of migratory bees for pollination causes severe strain on bee populations in California1; massive need for irrigation in drought-stricken regions (California and Spain)2, 3
Labour issues: standard North American 4 /European
Bottom line: If possible, choose Organic/Bee friendly
Grown in: Amazon rainforest
Karma’s Brazil nuts are from Bolivia.
Farming practices: need to be grown in the company of other plants (no monocultures); require local pollinators; actually support the rainforest5
Labour issues: harvested by migrant workers (as are other nuts)
Bottom line: Sustainable
Grown in: Africa, India, Vietnam
Karma’s cashews are from Vietnam and Burkina Faso.
Farming practices: provide wildlife habitat and prevent erosion; fairly water intensive2, 6
Labour issues: most cashews shipped to India for processing where working conditions are often poor: workers shell the nuts by hand, sometimes exposing their skin to burns from the caustic oils inside7, 8.
Bottom line: If possible, choose Fair trade
Grown in: Southern USA
Karma’s pecans are from Texas.
Farming practices: some have heavy pesticide use to keep away black aphids9; need irrigation if grown in arid climate10
Labour issues: standard North American4
Bottom line: If possible, choose Organic
Grown in: Turkey
Karma’s hazelnuts are from Turkey.
Farming practices: long-lasting, hardy, erosion-blocking, and requiring no pesticides; produced under water stress2, 6
Labour issues: child labour and underpaid Syrian refugee labour frequently used in hazelnut farming11, 12
Bottom line: If possible, choose Fair trade
Grown in: Asia, Russia, Middle East, Italy, Southwestern United States
Karma’s pine nuts are from China.
Farming practices: pine trees grow in wild forests; however, some areas have issues with destructive harvesting13; often, after harvesting, not enough pine nuts are left to feed the local wildlife14.
Labour issues: depends on location. Reports of bad labour practices in Russia, China15
Bottom line: If possible, avoid underpriced pine nuts. North American pine nuts may be sustainably sourced.
Grown in: many countries worldwide
Karma’s peanuts are from Ontario.
Farming practices: peanuts fix nitrogen so they are good for the soil; negligible water needs6; some fungicide use.
Labour issues: standard North American4
Bottom line: If possible, choose Organic and Local
Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
Grown in: many countries worldwide
Karma’s pumpkin seeds are currently from China and USA, sunflower seeds from Bulgaria.
Farming practices: monoculture but generally sustainable; negligible water needs6
Labour issues: depend on country of origin
Bottom line: Sustainable
In summary, Brazil nuts have to travel a long way to get to us but are grown in a sustainable manner. Other types of imported nuts, such as hazelnuts and cashews, may be sustainable but it is important to consider labour issues. Karma has recently started to sell Fair Trade cashews from Burkina Faso.
The only local nuts available in Ontario are peanuts; Ontario peanuts are highly sustainable. Otherwise, seeds (which can be grown in Ontario) are a sustainable option. Karma has just found a supplier for locally grown pumpkin seeds, so these should be available soon.
Standard North American labour issues may include difficult working conditions (long hours in the sun and heat, physically demanding work, possible exposure to harmful chemicals), low pay, labour laws may go unenforced, migrant workers are likely especially vulnerable 9. This may not be different in other continents.
I am hopeful the end is near, that a return to some kind of “normal” is so close. Hearing more and more people are getting vaccinated is the positivity we all need to focus on right now to get us through the home stretch. That, the increasing amount of local vegetables and approaching summer months are what I’ve been hanging onto. The staff and I have been so happy to see the physical return of some members to the store since receiving their first round of vaccinations. It has been so lovely to see your faces and to have you back at the co-op! What can I say, we’ve missed you!
If you are returning to the store after some time away, I hope you have noticed the new and improved bulk spice shelf that has a functional stainless steel work surface. The staff and I were very excited about the shelf’s arrival, which came to us from our longstanding supplier of organic bulk herbs and spices, Organic Connections. These kind folks made the shelf and delivered it to us, free of charge. Thank you Organic Connections! Also, we’ve welcomed more bulk products to the roster! Bulk rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil and coconut milk powder to name a few!
Also, you may have noticed a few changes to the Karma team. Most recently we said goodbye to Richelle, who always made us laugh with their updates on US politics and slick dance moves. We miss you Richelle and hope you are doing well! Stella was recently hired as Richelle’s replacement. Stella is a musician with a degree in sound engineering. Maybe we can record that Karma album we’ve always wanted to record with Stella’s help! I already have a few members in mind to feature! You know who you are! 😀 Stella is also a handy person, so I will pull on their expertise to help with various building projects. Welcome Stella!
As you know, over the past year, the Karma team and myself have been working tirelessly to keep the store operating and to continue to provide members with the food you all love and enjoy. It has been an exhausting time for us all, and I am ready and in need of a substantial break. I’d like to inform you all that I will be taking a leave of absence from the co-op from June to the end of September. I leave the store in the very capable hands of the Karma staff.
Alex Molina, Karma’s Assistant General Manager, will be taking the lead on some of my management duties while I am away, while other staff will be picking up added responsibilities as well. I have total faith that they will succeed and do their very best in holding things steady during my leave. I trust them wholeheartedly. They are the best team a manager could ask for. I am so grateful for all of their skills, energies and endless support. This year may well have broken me if it wasn’t for this incredible, thoughtful bunch. I hope this time offers them growth and opportunity in their new roles which will only benefit Karma and add to our already amazing co-op. You’re ready for this Karma staff! Members, please help support them along the way as I know you will!
Lastly, thank you so much to Caitlin Smith and Andrea Dawber for being amazingly supportive and understanding employers over these past months. I am so fortunate to have had you two be my sounding boards. You are great listeners and problem solvers. Thank you.
I will be around the store shopping as usual during my leave and hope to be able to have time to catch up with you all then. Until then, be well Karma! Thank you for all your support and love. I will see you at the end of September, hopefully on the other side of this pandemic! ❤️