My journey at Karma began with a search for miso paste.

I was researching where to buy miso paste in Toronto, and came across several familiar store names. Karma Co-op was also on the list, but I had never heard of it. I dug into their (our!) website and I liked what I saw. One of my interests is community development, and I noticed there’s a committee devoted to this. I wanted to contribute but had to join as a member first. So on February 1, I had my member orientation at Karma.

Among the first things that struck me about the quaint, cozy, and intimate co-op were the friendly staff and members who all seemed to know each other’s names and faces as they effortlessly made conversation. It endowed me with a wonderful sense of community to be surrounded by like-minded people who share common values, such as environmental sustainability, health, community-building, and organic and ethical products.

One of my favourite things about Karma is that it does not feel overcrowded—there are no excessive products, no waste—just the right amount to keep you satisfied. It all started with miso paste but I will continue to be a member at Karma because, as an organization, its values align well with my own. Here at Karma, it is not just organic produce that is cultivated—a conspicuous attempt at cultivating relationships with food and people is also present. I feel closer to the people, and closer to the food that will nourish the cells of my body.

Another major factor for me is democracy. Walking around Karma and being introduced to this non-profit organization immediately set Karma apart from mainstream, big-box grocery stores. As a member, I can participate in how the co-op is managed, including which products it stocks.

Ultimately, I leave feeling like an empowered consumer—someone who has a say in shaping my relationship with food and who is equipped with more information than I can find at a big-box store. That feeling alone makes it worth being a member at Karma. I wholeheartedly support food co-ops; and since finding one for myself, I feel it is the only way of grocery shopping that makes sense.

Simmy Saini lives in Mississauga and commutes to Toronto for work, after graduating last summer from University of Toronto with a major in environmental studies.

Read more articles from the spring 2017 issue of Karma’s printed newsletter, The Chronicle.