Happy 40th Anniversary, TPSS Co-op members and shoppers!
Yes, since 1981 we’ve been serving the Takoma Park-Silver Spring community, working to promote healthy living by offering wholesome foods, high-quality produce, and community resources in a clean, friendly, and cooperative grocery store – that you can own!
I want to report to you on the annual retreat just completed by your nine-member Board of Representatives. The retreat is always an opportunity to step away from day-to-day pressures, reflect on the experiences of the past year, and set new plans for the coming year. And what a year was 2020 to look back on! We all faced the life-and-death challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic – and we also saw how disparately and unfairly those challenges are falling on people, depending on their race and socioeconomic status. Through the spring and summer, white-on-black police murders and the massive outcry that followed further emphasized the need to address these disparities.
I’d like to share some of the lessons we learned and the initiatives we have committed to in 2021 as a way to “pay it forward.”
WHAT WE LEARNED IN 2020 FROM THE COVID-19 CRISIS:
The Co-op plays an essential role in our community. Thanks to our dedicated and innovative staff, the Co-op has provided necessary food and household supplies to our members and shoppers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as a safe and reliable place to work.
- At the outset of the pandemic, we were the first grocery store in the U.S. to close our storefront and transform our operation to 100% online shopping.
- Since re-opening our storefront in the summer, we have continued to offer safe in-store shopping and online shopping, with virtually no interruption. We have streamlined our online ordering process, filling most orders within 24 hours and providing easy pick-up on the west side parking lot. We’ve kept our shelves stocked for our members and customers, in part by relying on local supply chains to avoid product disruptions. At the same time, we supported local businesses.
- In 2020, we rang up 171,000 purchases, totaling $7,690,800 in sales. 70% of these sales were to members, who live throughout the Takoma Park-Silver Spring-DC region. Another 30% went to non-members, who also rely on our store.
Our employees are essential front-line workers. Putting a premium on their health and safety is costly, but worthwhile — and sustainable for the time being.
- The Co-op has maintained protocols stricter than State and County guidelines including a strict limit on customers and staff on the sales floor. We carefully followed CDC guidance during a staff case of Covid-19, which thankfully was a mild case.
- Not one of our 50 staff members had to be laid off due to the pandemic.
- Our safety protocols have forced us to limit access to our storefront, depressing our sales volume somewhat; but our General Manager has kept us in sound financial health by getting and obtaining forgiveness of a federal PPP loan.
The pandemic has highlighted stark and unacceptable social and racial inequities in our society that urgently demand redress. Here are some of the ways the Co-op quickly stepped up to this challenge during the past year:
- Our General Manager immediately offered our east side parking lot for food distribution by Small Things Matter and Sanctuary DMV. Thousands of food-insecure families are served on a weekly basis by these groups, including scores who pick up at our co-op.
- We established the Feed a Neighbor fund, to which our members and shoppers can donate with every grocery purchase. Your donations have provided thousands of dollars of support to Small Things Matter and Sanctuary DMV.
- Cooperating with Crossroads Community Food Network, the Co-op initiated a grant-supported program to “double up” the value of SNAP fresh produce purchases. Since the grant ran out at the end of September, the Co-op has continued to double the value of SNAP produce purchases through its own contributions to the program.
- This month, the Co-op became the first Maryland business to sponsor the Fair Food Program, a worker-driven human rights initiative ensuring basic protections for tens of thousands of farmworkers along the East Coast. TPSS will contribute a portion of its sales of Fair Food Program-certified produce, thereby helping to fund both wage bonuses and comprehensive monitoring/oversight of working conditions.
OUR COMMITMENTS FOR 2021:
How do we address and build on what we learned from 2020? The Board of Representatives agreed on three important initiatives for 2021:
A comprehensive training and education program on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). We continue to support Black Lives Matter and are committed to ensuring that TPSS Co-op is a just and equitable workplace. Therefore, we plan to embark on a program of DEI training and education for our board and management. We hope our experience can serve as a model for other businesses who seek to eliminate racial discrimination from their workplaces.
A complete review of our Policies for clarity, effectiveness, and equity. Our Board of Representatives oversees the Co-op’s operation through the establishment of policies that guide the conduct of the Board and the management of the store. Given the enormous demands of running the Co-op during the pandemic, we want to ensure that our policies are as clear and effective as possible, to help our General Manager carry out his job. We also want to make sure our policies reflect our commitment to racial justice and equity. Our policy review will follow and be informed by our DEI training and education program.
Creating opportunities for Board and community education. The pandemic has shown us how important it is for us to understand issues of food justice, racial justice, and sustainability. At our December 2020 board meeting, we began a series of talks by community leaders about food insecurity, with a conversation with Roxanne Yamashita of Small Things Matter. Our next speaker will be Lauren Goldberg, Executive Director of Crossroads Community Food Network, at our spring member meeting – 7 p.m. on April 20. In 2021, we will be planning other educational opportunities for the Board and our members and shoppers, so that we may better understand the challenges of our times and how we can rise to meet them.
I also want to assure you that the Co-op will continue to offer a combination of in-store and on-line shopping for the foreseeable future. This combination will be our model going forward, and is constantly being improved and refined. And we hope to even better serve our members, shoppers, and the community in years to come.
Finally, my fellow Board members and I invite you to join us in expressing our profound gratitude to our management and staff for their courage and dedication in maintaining a safe and welcoming place to obtain groceries and other essentials throughout this challenging pandemic.
With best wishes and thanks for your continued patronage of the TPSS Co-op,