2020 Board Candidate: Elizabeth Teuwen

Occupation

Culinary Instructor

Education

L'Academie de Cuisine - Certificate in Pastry Arts
Georgetown University Law Center - JD
College of the Holy Cross - AB

Community Involvement

Wellness in the Schools: chef and educator
Crossroads Farmers Market: demonstration chef
Healthy School Foods Maryland: festival organizer and chef

Why are you interested in serving on the Board?

I have been a resident of Takoma Park and loyal household member of the TPSS Co-op for the past six years. In fact, in my house we call the Co-op our offsite pantry. I am running for the board because I want to give back to a Takoma Park institution and support a pillar of healthy food in our community. As an attorney who represented cooperatives and a chef with retail experience, I have a unique set of skills that can help support the principals and goals of the TPSS Co-op.

Why are co-ops in general and TPSS Co-op in particular important to you?

I find the cooperative model important because it allows a business to utilize profits to fuel important community goals. Supporting the local food system means more than selling organic food, which even Walmart is doing these days. It is about supporting workers, creating relationships with local farmers and food entrepreneurs, and providing access to healthy and socially responsible foods for everyone. I see the way the TPSS Co-op does these things – as a customer concerned with feeding my own family and as volunteer chef at food-related events, where the Co-op has often been the source of my supplies. I am proud of the way the Co-op supports wellbeing, both within the store and in the broader community.

What volunteer or professional experiences have you had with other co-operatives or organizations that will help you strengthen the TPSS Co-op Board?

As an attorney who represented electric cooperatives, I appreciate the focus on quality service for co-op members. It is not all about maximizing profits, but rather making sound business decisions to support the health of the cooperative and all of its goals.

My culinary training gave me an appreciation for high quality ingredients. But it is more than a simple love of food that would help me strengthen the TPSS Co-op Board. As a chef and culinary educator in hospitality and retail settings, I see how customer service directly affects the health of a business. Part of what keeps the TPSS Co-op competitive in the era of big-box shopping is the effort it puts into creating a unique shopping experience. I love having a wine expert on site, and sampling new baked goods prepared by local vendors. I want to use my culinary experience and customer service training to further support these efforts.

What is your favorite Co-operative Principle and why?

My favorite principle is “Concern for the Community” because of the way this principle transforms the TPSS Co-op from simple neighborhood grocery store into an organization that strengthens and supports our local food system. I have experienced first-hand the generosity of the Co-ops in its partnerships with non-profits that I have been involved with, such as Crossroads and Healthy School Foods Maryland. And I value the steps the TPSS has taken to strengthen its own internal community by supporting unionized workers and improving employee benefits.

Describe your experience with financial oversight, particularly of a business or organization's budget and financial performance.

I received my financial education as an attorney, where I spent most of my time negotiating and litigating the complex accounting and economic practices of the utility industry. This financial knowledge helped when I became a chef and was responsible for running a commercial kitchen. This meant tracking food cost and payroll, creating budgets for special projects, and producing the highest quality food with a constant eye towards managing costs and waste.

Why are diversity and equity important to you, and how do these principles show up in your life?

I currently work as a culinary instructor. In the world of recreational cooking classes, I see how often food is marketed as a luxury. But I have always believed that access to healthy and sustainable food is a right, not a privilege. This belief drove me to work with organizations like Wellness in the Schools, helping to implement scratch cooking and promote nutrition education in DC public schools where almost all students took part in the free and reduced meal program. It is why fell in love with the Crossroads Farmers Market and in turn volunteered there as a demonstration chef, sharing samples and recipes with market guests. And it is why I would like a place on the TPSS Co-op board, to ensure the benefits of the Co-op are accessible to all members of our community.