A few years back, a few members of the co-op staff were in a meeting with a large non-profit organization. We were discussing ways to partner together and what their model and philosophy were. This particular non-profit was in the food justice space and worked with national corporations in addition to smaller stores like the TPSS Food Co-op. The non-profit staff member expressed how much easier it would be to work with the co-op.
“Organizations like you all want to do the right thing, that makes it easy for us. Larger corporations that we work with want to do the wro..” he caught himself before he could finish the word.
“..have to be made to do the right thing” he finished.
I spend most of my days around small businesses and organizations and people that are genuinely trying to make the world and especially the food system a better place. So, it’s jarring to remember that it isn’t the case for many other businesses. In fact, those large corporations with a profit motive and continual growth at all costs model are the ones we’re trying to save the food system from. When our cooperative makes business decisions, we do so with the community and the greater good in mind.
In the past year, that principle has been most evident in our SNAP matching Fresh Checks program in partnership with Crossroads Community Food Network. TPSS and Crossroads hosted a USDA press conference at the store in November announcing the nationwide USDA grantees to provide double dollars for SNAP recipients on fruits and vegetables. As one of the grant recipients, TPSS has matched $65,500 ($131,000 worth of produce) on purchases this year. TPSS makes no additional income from this program, nor do we get support for the administrative tasks that come along with a federal grant. We do it because it’s the right thing to do.
We do however need to stay in business in order to continue to make an impact, and I’m happy to report our fundamentals were strong this year. We saw excellent sales growth of just over 6% to come close to our best sales year ever. We increased our cash reserves and are on excellent pace on our project to remodel the store and update equipment in the next year. The co-op remains poised for long term growth with second store expansion on our horizon after the remodel project. It’s an extremely exciting time to be a part of this enterprise and I’m so proud to continue serving as your General Manager.
In addition to the USDA press conference, we hosted and participated in some wonderful community events in the past year. We hosted our annual Earth Day celebration in April with a theme of ‘The Future of our Food System’. Twenty different community groups and food businesses helped us raise awareness and make connections in furtherance of a more resilient food system that centers climate solutions. We also sponsored the Crossroads Farmer’s Market and Montgomery County Food and Beverage Expo presented by the Montgomery County Food Council. We remain in strong partnership with Small Things Matter on food security work locally. The board of TPSS hosted educational programming on food insecurity and plastic waste reduction to help educate members and the public at large.
To do the right thing isn’t easy. It typically isn’t profitable. If it were, and trust me on this, EVERYONE would do it. Doing the right thing for community and planet requires effort, thought and resources. I remain endlessly proud to lead a store in this community that is so committed to those principals. I hope you all are equally proud of your part supporting this cooperative business. I look forward to seeing you all in the store and around the community in the coming year. Thank you so much for your support.