The 43rd Annual Olympia Food Co-op Membership Meeting (2020)

The 43rd Annual Olympia Food Co-op Membership Meeting Theme: “Inspiring a Just Future” with Keynote Ellany Kayce

Our first virtual Membership Meeting was held Sat., Nov. 7th, 2020 from 11 am to 2 pm via Zoom! Apologies for the technical difficulties that prevented the meeting link from appearing on the website at 10:30 am as promised. We have resolved the issue for next time.
Watch the full meeting video embedded here, and read the meeting report from Director Joanne McCaughan, below the agenda.

Land Acknowledgement
Ellany Kayce
Agenda Review Jim Hutcheon, Board President
Board Report Jim Hutcheon
Community Sustaining Fund Report Desdra Dawning, Community Sustaining Fund
Finance Report with Q&A Corey Mayer, Finance Manager
Eastside Kitchen Remodel Bradley Naragon
Beer & Wine Report Grace Cox, Merchandising Coordination Action Team
Meet Your Board Candidates: Jayana Marshall & Joanne McCaughan
Environmental Justice Allison Sykes, Ecological Planning Committee
Keynote Presentation Ellany Kayce, Board Chair, Nakani Native Program
Staff Report and COVID-19 Update Nichelle Buckingham, Personnel Coordinator
Break Out Sessions
A.) Inspiring A Just Future Ellany Kayce, Board Chair, Nakani Native Program

B.) Co-op History Harry Levine, Finance Team
C.) How To Become a Working Member Alejandro Rugarcia, Working Member Team
D.) Supporting Local Farms and Producers Cristina Rodriguez, Board Member
E.) How To Join A Board Committee Joanne McCaughan, Board Member
F.) Co-op Development Fred Medlicott, Board Member
Outcomes & Group Discussion Jim Hutcheon
Farewell Jim Hutcheon

A warm thank you to Pacific Stage and Divas Interpretation Services Inc.
Brought to you by the Member Relations Committee of the Board of Directors of the Olympia Food Co-op, a Washington Not-For-Profit Corporation.

Report on the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Membership of Olympia Food Co-op


By Director Joanne McCaughan

On November 7, 2020, we hosted our 43 rd Annual (first ever virtual) Olympia Food Co-op Membership Meeting, themed: Inspiring a Just Future. This event, which many of our members look forward to each fall, is an opportunity for dialogue between the Board, the Membership, and the Staff on various issues. The Member Relations Committee of the Board is charged with developing the plans for the meeting each year, with every detail being carefully considered: from program focus; to menu items; to music, to speeches from Board Candidates. This year, due to the continued pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings, the need for social distancing and other protective measures, the Board determined it would be wise to hold the meeting virtually.

Recently, many of us have become very proficient with on-line meetings; nearly all of the 2020 Board and their committee meetings have been virtual, but this was our first opportunity to invite members, in large numbers, to the table. Thank you to all who took the time to participate, we appreciate your continued support and want to hear your feedback on the experience.

Welcome Members!
To open the meeting, we were honored to have our keynote speaker, Ellany Kayce Nakani Native Program, present a welcoming ceremony including drumming and a Land Acknowledgement. The meeting agenda followed the usual pattern of annual meetings, with reports from the Board and the Staff and opportunities for member interaction.

Board President, Jim Hutcheon read the Co-op Mission Statement, thanked the Staff and Working Members for their efforts, and spoke to the social justice concerns we are all experiencing in different ways. He explained that ideas and plans for a capital campaign to fund Co-op expansion projects have been put on hold for the time being, as we are focused now on the response to the coronavirus and it’s impacts on our community and operations.

Community Sustaining Fund
Next, we heard from Desdra Dawning, our former Board Member and continued Working Member, who presented a report on the Community Sustaining Fund (CSF). She noted that Co-op Members can ask to have a reminder for the Round-up at the Register added to our accounts by checking a box on a new Membership Application. Cashiers will ask if we’d like to “Round-Up” each time we shop. The CSF has been able to support many community projects and organizations over the years. This year, CSF has been working with the local Kiwanis Club for a separate fund to honor the legacy of Sue Lundy, a local farm activist. Desdra reminded the Co-op Membership to apply for funding of local projects, as the fall deadline for application for the funds was fast approaching.

Finance Report
The Finance report was presented by Corey Mayer, who noted that although we are in a time of uncertainty, we have experienced some growth, though not as much as expected when we budgeted. Impacts of the virus were anticipated, with operational changes needed, in order to keep the doors open. The Salad Bar has been closed now for several months, and at the same time there was a remodel of the Deli kitchen; the upside is that the Deli has been able to move to “ready to eat” selections which have become popular. Staff also developed a new Online Order for Pick-Up Service to meet the needs of members who cannot/prefer not to shop inside the stores during the pandemic. To promote the safety and health of shoppers and workers, and to meet state requirements, the Staff put together a “COVID-19 Task Force” in March. All of this has required many extra labor hours for cleaning and sanitizing from everyone. Additional temporary Co-op positions were created: one for picking and bagging the online grocery orders; one for monitoring compliance of the reduced capacity and face covering mandates. This led to the decision to hire additional Staff, including some temporary positions. Other related, unanticipated expenses have included masks, gloves, plexiglass shielding, sanitizers, and other
protective measures.

Overall, this year we saw a loss in revenue of $77,000, which is relatively small given the challenges we are facing. Our cash level only decreased by 10%, which maintains the agreement we made with our cooperative distributor: National Co-op Grocers Association (NCG). Early in the year the Co-op applied for and was granted funds through the federal Paycheck Protection Program; the PPP is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep workers on the payroll.

Kitchen Remodel Project Update
Next up, Staff member Bradley Naragon presented a program on the Eastside Kitchen Remodel project, for which he is the Coordinator. As it was not possible to expand the footprint of the store at this time, the Expansion committee decided it would be best to move forward with the Kitchen Remodel project. The existing kitchen was demolished, and the new space is safer, cleaner, and up to current codes, therefore much safer for Staff. The total cost of the project was a bit over $200,000, with about a quarter of that for hoods and other code requirements. The expectation was that the Salad Bar would benefit greatly from this upgrade; however, due to the current health restrictions, the Salad Bar is limited to pre-packaged ready to eat items for the time being. Staff looks forward to serving you hot soup again, in the not-too-distant future!

Beer & Wine Update
Staff member Grace Cox, member of the Merchandising Coordination Action Team, reported on the new Beer and Wine Department. The 2019 Co-op Member Ballot had asked whether the Co-op should carry beer, wine and cider; of the 504 ballots received, 65% voted in the affirmative. Since then, Staff worked on meeting state requirements for licensing, training of Staff and Working Members, and making decisions about which products to carry and where to place them in the stores. Although the space allotted for these products is limited, due to the relatively small size of our stores, sales are going well so far.

Board Candidate Speeches
Two Board Candidates addressed the meeting to speak about why they want to serve on the Board. First up was Jayana Marshall, Chief of Staff for the Nisqually Tribe for-profit businesses. She was formerly a teacher at the Olympia Waldorf School and wants to share her business expertise with the Board. Full disclosure, I was already a Co-op Board Member (Joanne McCaughan) running for another term. In my speech, I shared how important it is to me that Staff and Board work together for the benefit of all the members. Both Jayana and I appreciate your support and look forward to serving over the next three years.

Environmental Justice is Social Justice, Alison Sykes
A short program was presented by Alison Sykes, a Member-At-Large of the Co-op’s Ecological Planning Committee. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), “environmental justice” is defined as “The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of people, regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policy, such that no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences.” Alison’s PowerPoint showed how environmental degradation disproportionately affects Communities of Color. This timely presentation provided not only food for thought, but also a call to action, with the understanding that environmental justice is social justice.

To join the Olympia Food Co-op Ecological Planning Committee, or any other Co-op Committee as a Member-At-Large, email for an application!

Keynote Ellany Kayce, Nakani Native Program
Next, we were honored to have Ellany Kayce, Chair of the Nakani Native Program, and an enrolled member of the Tlingit Nation, Raven Clan, as our Keynote Speaker. Her presentation focused on the culture, history and current reality of the Tribes who have traditionally called this land their home. She shared maps of these traditional tribal lands, with more than two dozen located throughout the state of Washington. She spoke of the challenges faced by native peoples from the settlers/invaders; of how, when it came to the local Indigenous culture (language, customs, potlatching and other ceremonies), its very existence was outlawed. In
some cases, treaties were made, but these were rarely enforced. Traditionally, depending upon the location, season and availability of various types of food sources, First Peoples in our area mostly relied on hunting, fishing, and edible plants (e.g., salmon, shellfish, seaweed, crab, oysters, smelt, seal, whale, elk, black-tailed deer, bear, and mountain goats.) They harvested cedar, willow and Devil’s club – infused into tea, and healing salves, and woven into hats, baskets and clothing. Fruits they gathered included Pacific trailing blackberries, Salal, salmonberries, huckleberries, thimbleberries, elderberries, blackcap raspberries, horsetail root, Camas (bulbs), cattails, dandelion, burdock root, wild carrot, and tiger lilies.

Ellany spoke about the ways that groups with whom she works are addressing food distribution issues and building community partnerships. There are educational and cultural opportunities to engage people in advocating for tribal sovereignty, and to enforce treaty rights, and support for the activities of the Tribal Canoe Journeys each year. She emphasized the need to protect water, land and air to help the salmon thrive.

Ellany closed by talking about actions being taken by tribal communities to protect the environment, e.g., the Puyallup Tribe and environmental action groups worked together to protest the LNG plant being sited in Tacoma. She emphasized how we can work together as allies by: 1.) learning about treaties and calling for their enforcement; 2.) considering impacts of our actions on future generations; 3.) resisting stereotypes; 4.) working to end global warming – including joining the Tribes in their fight against fracking and pipelines. For anyone who wants more information about Nakani Native Program and its joint projects, or to make a donation, please visit

Staff Report & COVID-19 Task Force Report
Finally, Personnel Coordinator, Nichelle Buckingham, presented information on the work of the COVID-19 Task Force and offered an overall Staff Report. The Co-op is using Washington State Department of Labor & Industries-approved face coverings for all workers and shoppers in the stores; sanitizers and disposable gloves are available for use while shopping; masks are provided for those who arrive to shop without one, and floors of both stores have been marked for social distancing.

As winter approaches, the COVID-19 Task Force is looking at ways to improve conditions concerning ventilation, heating and break spaces where workers can maintain distancing. The Order Online for Pick-up at the Eastside Store has been fairly successful in meeting the needs of shoppers who cannot, or choose not to, shop inside the stores. Staff would welcome feedback on how this is working for our members. Eleven Working Members and former Staff Members have been hired into Temporary Staff positions in order to cover the shifts of current Staff Collective Members who are unable to work inside the stores at this time. Nine Staff Members
left the Co-op this year, and nine were also hired. Staff now totals 83 Collective Members and 11 Temporary Staff. Thank you to all of our front-line essential workers for stepping in and taking risks in order to serve our community at this stressful time!

Finally, Nichelle noted that longtime Staff Member Ami Greenberg, who was instrumental in pioneering the Co-op’s work in Restorative Justice practices, has retired. Ami dedicated herself to our Conflict Resolution Team and served on our Humane Resources Team. Most recently, Ami co-managed the Bulk Department at the Westside store. Ami’s great wealth of knowledge, sunny personality and compassionate ear will not be missed for long however… she will be returning as a Working Member!

Breakout Sessions
The final activity for members in attendance was an opportunity to participate in Zoom break-out rooms, separate channels where various issues were discussed, each facilitated by a Board or Staff Member. Session choices included Board Committees with me, Joanne; Co-op Trivia with second-most-senior Staffer Harry Levine (most senior is Grace); a Working Members’ Q&A was hosted by Eastside Cashier Coordinator Alejandro Rugarcia, who introduced longtime and
long-lived (88-years young) Working Member, Lily Love. Like many other Working Members, Lily is really missing her participation in the Co-op, and those gold cards!

Jim, our Host, wrapped up the Breakout Sessions of small group discussions, and adjourned the meeting by noting that the Olympia Food Co-op Mission Statement reflects goals which inspire our work towards a just future:

The Olympia Food Co-op Mission/Purpose Statement
The purpose of the cooperative is to contribute to the health and wellbeing of people by providing wholesome foods and other goods and services, accessible to all, through a locally oriented, collectively managed, not-for-profit cooperative organization that relies on consensus decision-making. We strive to make human effects on the earth and its inhabitants positive and renewing, and to encourage economic and social justice. Our goals are to:
· Provide information about food
· Make good food accessible to more people
· Support efforts to increase democratic process
· Support efforts to foster a socially and economically egalitarian society
· Provide information about collective process and consensus decision making
· Support local production
· See to the long-term health of the business
· Assist in the development of local community resources

See you next fall! Oct 15 – Nov 15!