The idea of the Back to Basics program is not new to the Co-op community nor is it new to the Swarthmore Co-op. The Back to Basics program first start in 2013. I was lucky enough to attend the National Consumers Cooperative Management Association Conference (CCMA) in Austin, Texas in 2013. During one of the sessions I attended, we discussed how to engage neighboring communities and those in more varied socioeconomic demographics in our local co-ops. One of the solutions mentioned was to debunk the myth that Co-ops are high end, specialty markets.
An ingrained principle of food co-ops is providing access to healthy food. However, sometimes the idea of food access gets lost, simply by the concept of Co-ops focusing on local, organic, sustainable items, which tend to be higher priced items.
Inspired by other co-ops at CCMA, I developed the “Back to Basics” program to keep prices low on staple food items, allowing basic food needs to be met by anyone in the community. To start, I took a look at food staples in our store (coffee, flour, pasta, rice etc.) and decided to lower the prices on select items. I developed the program further by working with department managers and our vendors to keep costs at a minimum. The main goal of this program is to make our food accessible but more importantly affordable for everyone inside and outside of the Swarthmore community.
With each new month we feature one rotating Back to Basics item along with our permanent list of items. We have a little over twenty products permanently on the Back to Basics program, including meats, produce, dairy, toiletries and baking needs. We look forward to continuing to extend this philosophy and practice to other products throughout the store which will provide us a way to serve you better foods, better choices and better service, all for less cost. Now this is what I call food access in its most basic form!