Report from the Board

It’s that time of year again when we gather for Karma’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) and provide you with an update on the health of our Co-op. There, we’ll review the Board’s activities over the past year, the co-op’s financial status and board member changes. We’ll also take this opportunity to share some exciting news with you about strategic planning we’re engaged in for the Co-op. As well as look back on other milestones in the past year including our social media and marketing initiatives and new changes to our bulk bins. This year has been a busy one for the Karma board. We have been fortunate to have a number of new members join our ranks to support these new and exciting initiatives. Though ultimately the AGM signals a changing of the guard and we need our members to join us in continuing to provide valuable leadership and support going forward. From my personal experience, being on the Karma Board has been an intensely rewarding experience. I am both humbled by and appreciative for the opportunity to become President and the valuable skills and experience I have gained throughout my time. It has been an inspiring and remarkable journey working as part of such a value-driven, passionate, and dedicated team and something that is totally unique to the community that Karma cultivates. I am certain that spirit will continue to drive the Co-op forward.

by Alli Floroff, President, Board of Directors, Karma Food Co-op

From the GM—July 2018

Dear Karma Members,

July is plastic-free month, and what better way to celebrate the month than with our new bulk bins! Buying in bulk saves on packaging, limits the consumption of food additives, is cheaper, and encourages reuse. Karma offers a few options to limit plastic consumption: you can bring your own container to fill; use a pre-loved container from under the members’ table; purchase a reusable Karma drawstring bulk bag; or purchase a paper bag. There are alternatives available and we encourage you to take advantage of them rather than grabbing for a new plastic bag.

Karma has always been a leader in what’s now called “zero-waste” living, only now, we’re doing it better. We carry a highly unique bulk product line, from toothpaste to miso. Over the coming weeks we will be increasing our offerings even more to make Karma your number one stop for your zero-waste needs. If there are any additions you’d like to see at Karma, let us know! We’re always looking to improve! Stay tuned to our social media channels to learn about new products and tips on how you can reduce your plastic consumption and waste generally.

The feedback we have received on the bins has been overwhelmingly positive and we are so thrilled that you love your new bins as much as we do! With the new bins, we don’t have to pre-bag any bulk in plastic bags, we can sell more products, and our bulk takes up a smaller amount of space. Thank you to all the members who helped with the renovation, and the BIGGEST thank you to the amazing staff who worked so incredibly hard to make this transition happen. The new bins wouldn’t have been possible without all of your help!

In staffing news, Karma’s bulk and meat purchaser James Byrne is going back to school in September! We’re so excited for him and know he will do amazing things. James will be taking a leave of absence for two months before coming back to work at Karma once a week in October. We will miss his master selling techniques and cheery self so very much while he is gone. Please wish him the best of luck in his studies.

Yours co-operatively,
Talia McGuire
General Manager
Karma Co-op
manager@karmacoop.org

From the GM—May 2018

Dear Karma Members,

It’s official. Spring has sprung! The local greens have started to make their way through our doors, and we’re looking forward to what’s to come. We’re patiently awaiting the fiddleheads and wild leeks. We’ll let you know as soon as they arrive!

I am very excited to share with you some very big news. Some of you know that retrofitting our bulk section has been a dream of mine since I started my work as General Manager. Well, this dream is coming true! In mid-June, Karma will be getting new bulk bins! New bins will increase the general aesthetics of the store, make better use of floor space, and keep products fresher, longer. It will also mean no more pre-bagging bulk in plastic bags!! You will be able to get all our bulk in your own receptacles in as little or as much as you like. This will also extend to our frozen bulk items such as wild blueberries and refrigerated bulk items, including parmesan cheese and hemp hearts. Increasing our unpackaged bulk selection will hopefully lead to increased sales in the department. I very much hope you will love the investment! I know the staff and I cannot wait.

In April, we wrapped up our social media campaign. A successful go for our first attempt! We are starting to see an increase in new shoppers who have found out about Karma through social media. Thank you to all the members who participated in sharing their Karma stories with us, and their beautiful faces. And a very, very big thank you to the member who covered the costs of hiring our social media consultant through a generous donation. This will most definitely benefit our co-op. THANK YOU!

Karma is now more energy efficient! We qualified for Toronto Hydro’s refrigeration retrofit program. We received night curtains for our produce display cooler, strip curtains for our walk-in coolers, and a new motor for our produce cooler!

In staffing news, Sierra and Cheyenne are leaving Karma to pursue work in their fields. We are so grateful to them for all of their energy and work that they brought to Karma. We will miss them both and wish them all the very best in whatever comes their way. Best of luck you two! You will be missed!

Prue and Christina are our newest staff members! Prue will be taking over the responsibilities of the HABA department. Welcome both!

Yours co-operatively,

Talia McGuire
General Manager
Karma Co-op
manager@karmacoop.org

From the GM—April 2018

Dear Karma Members,

Having just received the first delivery of the 2018 Ontario spinach and lettuce, we’re getting excited about what’s on the horizon for local food! March and April are some of the more difficult months for sourcing local food as the last of the storage crops get used up and we wait for warmer temperatures.

At Karma, we do our best to source local ingredients as much as possible even during these months. Our small size and way of doing business means we are able to provide members with more local options throughout the year than larger grocers. Currently, we have 30 produce items grown in Ontario and Quebec, including cucumbers, cabbage, loose carrots, mushrooms, garlic, onions, and apples.

It only gets better from here! Keep your eye on our social media pages to keep informed about what’s fresh and in season.  You’ll also find some great tips and recipes for living more sustainably!

Happy Spring!!

Yours co-operatively,

Talia McGuire
General Manager
Karma Co-op
manager@karmacoop.org

Ask Reece

Dear Reece,

I noticed in your last column, you mentioned that exercise doesn’t affect weight. Really?

Sincerely,
Freely Admiring my Tubbyness

Dear FAT,

I could just say “yup” (Carneiro 2016)! But instead I’ll say that the more studies I read, the more I think we don’t know very much about weight gain, nutrition, exercise, and the multitude of elements that affect how we process and use food. We can’t even reliably calculate the calories in basic foods like walnuts (Baer 2016), and the current popular view of sugar as addictive hasn’t stood up to human testing (Marcus 2017). Personally, I think there are too many factors — psychological, social, biological, and so on for us to really know how this works for each individual. It feels easy to frame one thing or another as the sole cause for something we deem detrimental, and that may be because it sells things — whether magazines or specialty food products. It’s rarely the whole story, though.

I also wanted to say it’s been great getting so much feedback from that last article, both in person at Karma, and over email, so keep it up! Ask questions, and send feedback to the email address below. Bonus points if you can come up with a clever acronym for your name.

Kind regards,
Reece


Dear Reece,

My kind roommate makes his lunches up for the week ahead of time, and recently has been packing up one or two extra for me as well. While I appreciate this, I don’t like the excessive use of plastic wrap and disposable packaging. I would have thought he’d know this since we’ve been friends for a while, and I have always been very environmentally conscious. How do I politely ask him to put my lunches (and ideally his) in a reusable container?

Sincerely,
Yes to the Tortilla Wrap, No to the Plastic Wrap

Dear YTWNPW,

Sounds like a great roommate! I would be very careful about how you make this type of request; a couple lunches a week is a significant gift, and it’s tricky to put terms on gifts. I am old-fashioned in that I think a gift is meant to be accepted as given, if given in good faith.

However, you could use it as an opportunity to do something in return for him and you, and that may solve the issue. There are options for packaging lunches, like reusable wrap and bento boxes, that are on the nicer side — a little pricier but more attractive and more pleasant to use than, for example, a plastic container. If you think your roommate might be open to it, you could purchase a set for each of you. If he still prefers disposable, then you may have to decide if you would rather put up with the excess packaging or forego the free lunch.

Kind regards,
Reece


Ask Reece is the e-Chronicle’s advice column by Karma working member Reece Steinberg, a health sciences librarian and food enthusiast. Reece provides advice with input from a variety of sources including anything from traditional etiquette columns to peer-reviewed scientific articles. He answers Karma member questions about dietary lifestyles, food science and fermentation, eating etiquette, and anything else food-related. Please email your questions to askreece@karmacoop.org.

Kootenay Co-op in Nelson, BC

Karma is the only food co-operative to which I have ever belonged. Until a few years ago, everything that I knew about co-ops was, therefore, based on Karma’s model. When my friend Lisa and her family moved to Nelson, BC, I was curious about how the co-op she joined there operated. If you have an interest in another food co-op, the Kootenay Co-op in particular, then I invite you to read on.

A decade ago, my family said goodbye to our good friends Lisa and her family, who left Toronto and relocated to the southern interior of BC. Lisa and I have stayed in touch and keep up with news about each other’s broods and our common interest in all things food. You see, when she lived in Toronto, we used to cook for each other’s families and take cooking classes together.

During our Skype sessions I learned about her local, the Kootenay Co-op, a co-op with many things in common with Karma, as well as differences.

Both co-ops came into existence in the 1970s: Kootenay in 1975 and Karma in 1972. Both are member-owned with similar missions to strengthen local food systems in a community-based approach. Both co-ops make education a pillar of their business model by providing access to informative classes, workshops, and publications such as on-line blogs. Both co-ops make relationships with their suppliers paramount.

Kootenay has had a planned and significant growth over the past few years. During the past decade, Lisa has been part of its expansion phase that saw it go from an 8,000-square-foot store to a new purpose-built edifice with 21,000 square feet of grocery, produce, and wellness retail departments, plus a butcher, delicatessen, and kitchen space. Staff now number 175 people for sales of $16 million last year.

To put in context the customer base for the Co-op, Nelson has a population of close to 10,000, according to the 2016 Canadian census, and is 44 km away from the next biggest commercial centre of Castlegar. The Co-op is the only one of its kind in the greater Regional District of Central Kootenay, which has a population of 60,000. Kootenay Co-op competes with four grocery stores in the city.

For a one-time $50 fee, members are able to purchase deeply discounted case-lots twice per year, receive 10% off purchases over $500, and receive discounts on the cooking classes (members pay $30 vs $35 for non-members), wellness lectures, and workshops. The membership fee also supports local food producers; provides grants, scholarships, and donations to community groups; and pays their staff a living wage.

Another benefit of membership is the “patronage refund voted on annually by the board and based on amount spent by the member in the previous year.”

Lisa regularly picks up bulk dried beans, oats, some spices, and produce there. She also likes the case-lot sale, which is “great for larger quantities of things like rice.”  She also takes advantage of the 10% discount on cases of items at any time.

In addition to the store, Kootenay Co-op also boasts an industrial kitchen, where the cooking classes take place. The plans for the new building also included a cafeteria-style restaurant that Lisa says “has been a massive hit.” She tells me that if I ever get out to Nelson, “we will most certainly go there for lunch!” This is an offer I hope to take her up on sooner than later.

Lest we feel small after reading about Kootenay Co-op’s success over the past few years, Lisa helps temper those feelings with her words: “The new co-op is incredible, though some, I think, miss the old days (before our time here) of a very small, member-run operation.”

P.S. The food co-op isn’t the only non-profit enterprise in town. “We are a city of co-ops,” Lisa says. “It’s just the mentality here, I guess.” Others include the Kootenay Carshare Co-op, the Civic Theatre, and Kootenay Co-op Radio.

By Barbara Walters

Photographs by Greg Maslak

Kootenay Co-opKootenay Co-op

 

 

Ask Reece

Dear Reece,

I joined Karma Co-op recently as I’m trying to eat more fresh food in the hopes of losing a few pounds. I’ve been stocking up on natural groceries, seeing the dietitian regularly, and watching videos from my dietician about the dangers of eating processed food and eating out. It’s been three months, and nothing has changed: my dietitian is frustrated with me, I can’t stick to the meal plans he sets up, most of the produce I buy goes bad before I use it, and I just end up feeling guilty. I want to change my behaviour and am trying, but somehow it never quite pans out. How can I improve my eating habits and lose weight?

From,

A New Member

 

Dear New Member,

First, I am sorry to hear that your dietitian is frustrated with you. Health professionals should be equipped to provide support and information, not judgement.

I took a look at what evidence-based studies have to say about changing eating behaviour, and it’s fascinating, complex, and sometimes counter-intuitive. ​For example, a 2016 paper writes that “health consciousness” — having information about the health effects of food — does not correlate with healthy behaviour. Knowing what is healthy doesn’t prompt body-size change in most cases, and, at best, only shows a weak association, such as increased consumption of organic food. Actions related to health, like meal-planning, also don’t correlate to improved eating but may contribute to anti-fat bias​ (Wood 2016).

An article your dietitian could take a look at talks about the causes of food choice behaviour — examining the variables other than intention that affect what we choose to eat, including beliefs, marketing, food literacy, taste, culture, and more (Scott 2017).

So, if intention and health education don’t work to change eating behaviour, guess what does? Being curious (i.e., non-judgmental) and in the present, and paying attention to the process of eating. Yes, it’s mindfulness, and yes, that can feel a little like cheesy pop-psychology, but it’s been shown to work to change eating behaviour in relatively large trials (Hendrickson 2017). Plus, it’s a lot more inclusive and less shame-inducing than the alternatives. I would add that eating habits are only one small part of what affects weight: genes, intestinal microbiome, and other factors play important roles; though, contrary to popular belief, exercise does not (Science Vs. podcast episode).

My point of view? Relax about weight/weight loss, focus on enjoying quality food, and avoid people (especially professionals) who are judgmental about weight.

 

Ask Reece is the e-Chronicle’s advice column by Karma working member Reece Steinberg, a health sciences librarian and food enthusiast. Reece provides advice with input from a variety of sources, including anything from traditional etiquette columns to peer-reviewed scientific articles. He answers Karma member questions about dietary lifestyles, food science and fermentation, eating etiquette, and anything else food-related. Please email your questions to askreece@karmacoop.org.

From the GM—December 2017

Dear Karma Members,

You know it’s the holidays at Karma when the Darn Tough socks arrive! And they have! As the holidays quickly approach, we are busy preparing for the festivities! We are busy ordering new products and deciding which items our members will enjoy throughout the season. You will be able to find all that you need for your holiday entertaining and, of course, great gift ideas!

To make your holiday shopping easier this year, we are offering our first ever assembled holiday gift bags! These bags feature some of our favourite products and come packaged in Karma totes and reusable bulk bags. You can even order online for quick pick up in store!

You’ll be happy to know that we are once again taking pre-orders for Southbrook Vineyards organic wines. Don’t forget that 10% of wine orders goes back to Karma! So stock up for your holiday entertaining at Karma!

After the positive feedback we received about the West End Food Co-op (WEFC) tourtières last year, we will be taking pre-orders again this year! Handmade in the WEFC kitchen, these traditional Québecois meat pies are made with grass-fed organic ground beef and pork from Hoffnung and Beretta Farms. You can order in store or by emailing me at manager@karmacoop.org.

Enjoy the holidays, Karma members!

Yours co-operatively,

Talia McGuire
General Manager
Karma Co-op
manager@karmacoop.org

Ask Reece

Hi Reece,

I like food and drinks on the sweet side and have recently switched to stevia for seasoning my food (think sweet garlic sauce, salad dressings, etc.) and drinking “lightly sweetened” stevia carbonated waters, for example. When I serve food to guests, is it unethical of me to leave out that there is stevia in the food? If I don’t tell them, how do I respond when they comment on how sweet my food is? (This happened recently — most of my friends think of me as health conscious.)

Hoping to remain,

Sweetly Unaware Guests All Right

Hi SUGAR,

First, I have to guess why you would think it could be unethical to neglect to tell someone that stevia is in their food. Barring specific eating restrictions, or friends asking directly for a list of ingredients, most of the time we aren’t aware of every ingredient in a dish someone else prepares for us. Artificial sweeteners have been getting a fair amount of press for years regarding health concerns, most recently that aspartame and similar products have been the subject of some studies that linked their use to changes in gut microbiomes, potentially leading to diabetes, “sugar spikes,” or unwanted weight gain (Palmnas 2014). These studies are overall short in duration and small (e.g., 31 adults over 4 days; Frankenfeld 2015), and with mixed results in lab rats (Nettleton 2016). And most don’t even study stevia (one exception: Lopes 2017), though logically it is possible that stevia could produce the same sugar spike in the brain, and it could acclimate one to very sweet tastes, leading to use of more actual sugar. Science Vs., a podcast that explores science topics in an engaging way, but with rigorous science, has a fun episode on aspartame that might interest you.

So your question might be: I am aware of potential negative health effects of artificial sweeteners, and stevia is the more natural equivalent. Do I need to tell my friends? The main other option I can think of, for why you would think it was unethical is that nebulous feeling that it’s just not something people expect to encounter in their meals, similar to people who become upset when they have been “tricked” into eating a faux meat product or tofu cheesecake. Healthwise, it’s probably not a huge deal to occasionally have a small amount of artificial sweetener — the tests mentioned above focus on long-term use of the maximum recommended dose, and even they are not entirely conclusive. I am sure your friends having stevia in small amounts on occasion in your cooking could not harm their health. That said, if you believe that the other person would be upset if they found out, or if you feel like you need to hide it, you may feel better mentioning it casually when making the offer. An example could be, “I have some stevia orange fizzy water if you’re into that sort of thing, instead of plain water.” It doesn’t need to be a huge thing, just a mention. Don’t go over the top, and you never need to apologize for food you are giving to someone else.

Hope that helps!

Reece

 

Ask Reece is the Chronicle’s advice column by Karma working member Reece Steinberg, a health sciences librarian and food enthusiast. Reece provides advice with input from a variety of sources including anything from traditional etiquette columns to peer-reviewed scientific articles. He answers Karma member questions about dietary lifestyles, food science and fermentation, eating etiquette, and anything else food-related. Please email your questions to askreece@karmacoop.org.

From the GM — November 2017

Dear Karma Members,

Thanks to all who attended this year’s AGM. It was a well-attended meeting complete with AGM regulars and some new faces as well! We welcomed four new faces to the Board of Directors and said goodbye to several members as well. I wanted to sincerely thank all the board members who left the board this year. Being on the Board of Directors is a big commitment and very important work. I truly enjoyed and learned so much in working with each one of you. Thank you for your commitment to Karma and in helping your co-op move forward.

On a related note, I realize I wrongfully neglected to mention a very important topic and thank you at the AGM — a topic I am sure would have sparked discussion around the room, especially since I had received so much input on the topic from members individually. That was in regards to the member who generously gave a monetary gift to help Karma in whatever way the board and myself saw appropriate. As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, this was a gift given from someone who adores their co-op and who is also in a position to give. This gift is so greatly appreciated and will surely do good for our co-op. I want to offer my deepest gratitude and thanks to that individual.

The donation and article, Karma’s Future, had members talking. The spirit of the article was to present the option of donating and to inspire other members who might find themselves in a similar position to give in a monetary way.

You will be happy to know that the article has inspired others. Since the article was written, another member contacted me to find out how their money could be of use to Karma. After some discussion, this member decided they would like to fund Karma’s social media strategy — a project that will be commencing mid-November for approximately four months, and that will see us hiring a social media professional to help boost Karma’s social media and online presence in order to increase membership.  So another very big and grateful thank you needs to be expressed to this member, a long-time member to whom Karma means a great deal. Your generosity is very appreciated by myself and fellow members. Thank you, thank you.

If any of this resonates with you, please feel free to connect with me to chat about the possibilities. I would be happy to explore any ideas you might have or share with you some of mine.

FREE Vermicompost!

Karma’s worms and vermicompost team have been working hard to produce and harvest this year’s worm compost! Help yourselves to the compost for use in your gardens or houseplants. The compost is in blue rubbermaid bins just outside the front doors. Vermicompost is a wonderful soil amendment full of vital nutrients to keep your plants (and soil!) healthy. Use as is as a top dressing or make into a tea for fast absorption by plants.

Changes to cashing out

In the very near future, we will be asking for your last name, instead of household number, when cashing out. This is to resolve some issues we’ve been having with members being cashed out under the wrong accounts. We hope that in asking for member’s names, we will alleviate this issue and be more personable in the process!

Yours co-operatively,
Talia McGuire
General Manager
Karma Co-op
manager@karmacoop.org