Co-op Questions with Former Board Member Fred Feinstein

By Taylor Dibbert

For the latest edition of Co-op Questions, I got in touch with Fred Feinstein. He served on the Co-op’s Board of Representatives from 2016 to 2022.

This interview has been edited lightly.

Would you tell me a little bit about yourself?

For the first 25 years of my life, I lived in [New York City] NYC. For the past 43 years, I’ve lived on Sycamore Ave in Takoma Park, just down the street from the Co-op. I worked as a labor lawyer for Congress, served in the Clinton administration at the [National Labor Relations Board] NLRB, and was a Senior Fellow at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. My work focused on promoting policies that support worker, union and immigrant rights. Now, in addition to trying to keep up with these issues, I play music, try to grow and expand our garden, look after our granddaughter and make an effort to learn about and contribute to the city I love, Takoma Park.

What year did you join the Co-op? What made you want to become a member?

We were members of the Co-op since the eighties, before it moved to its current locale. We joined because we believe in Co-ops, value having a local grocery that provides food to the community in socially and environmentally responsible ways and because we like to shop in the store. 

How frequently do you shop there? Are there certain items or brands that you particularly enjoy?

We shop in the store several times a week. Sometimes we buy a few items, other times we do a big monthly shopping. It provides us with nearly all the groceries and household items we need. We particularly value the bulk food section. 

Why did you decide to run for a spot on the Board?

I ran for the Board because I wanted to contribute to a store I very much valued and relied on. Part of what I like about the Co-op is members stepping up to participate in the governance of our member owned store. It was a way to show appreciation for what the Co-op is and what it does.

I also decided to run for the board because of concern that proposed development of the junction where the Co-op is located posed serious challenges. Serving on the Board was a way to help address those challenges. 

How would you describe your Board experience?

I am very glad to have served on the Board. Getting to know the Board Members, the store management and staff was probably the best part. It’s helped me feel more connected to the community. 

I’ve learned about the grocery industry and the challenges of providing access to food produced in socially and environmentally responsible ways, especially during these times of growing concern about food insecurity. I’ve particularly appreciated the chance to contribute to a community-based organization that is committed to addressing these critical concerns. 

What advice, if any, would you have for a new Board Member?

First thank you for volunteering to serve on the Co-op Board. Take your time to learn about the store and its great staff as well as the governing principles that guide the work of the Board. 

One area I hope you consider is encouraging greater member participation in the issues and concerns of the Co-op. The energy and potential contributions of the membership I believe is an underutilized resource of the Co-op. I worked on this issue as a Board Member and hope the new board will continue to do so. 

Working with the staff and interested members, the Board can encourage a greater sense of community amongst the members. I hope the Co-op can build on excellent events like the “Hunger Cliff” forum and “Earth Day at the Co-op.” I encourage the Board to look into reviving efforts such as the pre-pandemic Thursday’s at the Co-op and consider organizing other opportunities for the membership to gather, get to know each other and to contribute to the Co-op’s mission. 

Anything else?

The Co-op is a special part of our community. Thank you staff, management, Board, Co-op members and all who make that possible. 

Taylor Dibbert serves on TPSS Co-op’s Board of Representatives.