Saint Paul, MN – While the United States continues to struggle socially and economically with the COVID-19 pandemic, data shows us that the pandemic has so far taken a higher toll on the Black community than non-Hispanic white adults across a range of outcomes, even beyond pre-pandemic disparities that existed.
In response, National Co+op Grocers (NCG) announces its continued investment in Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund Food Box Program, which it supported last year as well. The program connects Black farmers who have lost market share due to the ongoing economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic with families in their communities that don’t have enough to eat.
NCG has a long history of supporting small scale and family farmers around the world in policy and practice, but its ongoing racial equity work has led the co-op to recognize systemic inequities in the United States and respond with increased investments in U.S. farmers of color.
Since 2017, NCG has been increasing its support for smallholder, fair trade and/or cooperative farmers in keeping with a UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) commitment to increase its support for these groups 30% by 2030.
"We are on track to meet this goal, which we have historically met by funding farmer-led development projects, usually within food co-ops’ supply chain, in places such as East Timor, Peru and Kerala, India, because these are places where fair trade has a foothold as a worker and human rights movement," explained Allie Mentzer, Senior Director of Advocacy and Sustainability for NCG. "While we continue to champion fair trade abroad, we are energized by our new partnership with the Federation in the American South, and excited to apply our commitment to domestic supply chain development."
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, entering its 55th year, assists limited-resource farmers, landowners, and cooperatives across the South with business planning, debt restructuring, marketing expertise, and a whole range of other services to ensure the retention of land ownership and cooperatives as a tool for social and economic justice. The overall mission is to reverse the trend of Black land loss and be a catalyst for the development of self-supporting communities via cooperative economic development, land retention and advocacy. The Federation began the Food Box Program in 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, but due to continued need, has chosen to integrate this initiative into its overall disaster relief efforts and regional marketing system.
"The Federation values our relationship with NCG and its support of our member cooperatives and farmers through its direct investment in our work to support rural communities, and their commitment to providing equitable opportunities for Black farmers within their supply chain." Said Chawnn Redden, Regional Marketing Coordinator for The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund.
NCG is in discussion with FSC about other potential opportunities for partnership, as well.
"Food co-ops gave NCG a mission that includes growing the size and scope of the cooperative grocery sector," explained C.E. Pugh, Chief Executive Officer for NCG. "Focusing on racial equity and food justice in our supply chain is well aligned with that mission. Today, just 1.4% of farmers in the U.S. identify as Black. Our support for the Federation is an investment in building a strong and resilient domestic food system that is truly inclusive from farm to food co-op to fork."
National Co+op Grocers (NCG), founded in 1999, is a business services cooperative for retail food co-ops located throughout the United States. NCG helps unify food co-ops in order to optimize operational and marketing resources, strengthen purchasing power, and ultimately offer more value to natural food co-op owners and shoppers everywhere. Our 149 member co-ops operate more than 200 storefronts in 38 states with combined annual sales of nearly $2.3 billion. NCG is a winner of the dotCoop Global Awards for Cooperative Excellence and a certified B Corp. Find map of NCG member co-ops. To learn more about co-ops, visit www.grocery.coop.
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