November 17th 2014
It was a grey, cold, rainy day in Camden...
That didn't stop the 15 volunteers from UrbanPromise, True Covenant Church, and Touch New Jersey from showing up at 7 a.m., filled with anticipation and lots of energy. By 8:30 a.m, people from Camden, Haddonfield, Pennsauken, and Moorestown had the downstairs of our newly renovated Spirit Building ready for opening day of our Community Food Co-Op. After a year of planning, we had a new building, equipment, food, greeters, baggers, food shoppers, health educators-we were ready. In came our first family: a mother and her teenage son, both looking angry, not wanting to engage in conversation or respond to my greeting: “Good morning and welcome! You are our first member family!" My guess was that it was the game face of someone hating that they were there in need, talking to a total stranger who was there to help. Stumbling for the right words, I was stopped when our youngest volunteer (my 5-year-old son) ran around the corner to do "his job." Aghast, I watched as he pelted mother and son in the chest with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and ran off. To my great relief and amazement, they both immediately broke out into laughter, with the mother sharing "I needed that! This is a hard morning.” With that, the food co-op was underway.
Family after family came in, tentative and unsure. As I spoke with them, the conversations yielded similar results: "This is a co-op? Yes, I want to join. When can I start volunteering? Can I start today? Can my daughter help? Can my whole family help? I absolutely want to give back and help others!” That response was before they went through the maze of cheerful and helpful volunteers including Nurse Becky who chatted up healthy food choices; a Camden brother and sister pair, who along with a chef, shared ways to prepare beets, Swiss chard, and other wonderful food offerings; a student (and her mom) from the UrbanPromise Academy who encouraged people to take books from the sharing library; and members from a Camden church who helped people bag and carry food out to their cars.
By the end of the morning, 32 families had signed up as members, and all signed up to volunteer the following week. A total of 1,152 pounds of food was distributed to the 32 families, comprised of 55 adults, 67 children, and 6 senior citizens. All needing food. And all excited to be part of an empowering model for and by the community.
Since that cold and rainy Saturday a few weeks ago, the food co-op has been open for a total of three days and the members shared their first monthly communal meal together this past Friday night.
We are excited to bring such an important resource to the community and we hope that you will partner with us. Consider donating an item or two from our wish list below or make a financial gift to the food co-op to help us supplement donated food.
I will be sure to keep you updated on this exciting program.
Food Co-Op wish list:
- 50 turkeys (for distribution on Nov. 22)
- Dairy products
- Meat products
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- A hand truck
- Food funds
Food Co-Op volunteer needs:
- Child care
- Legal help (pro bono)
- Home maintenance trainers
The Camsauken Food Co-Op is open to members three Saturday mornings a month, (9 a.m.–12 p.m.) and one Friday a month (3 p.m.- 6 p.m.). The Co-Op is led by Touch New Jersey, UrbanPromise, True Covenant Worship Center, and Fresh Start Ministries in partnership with Philabundance and Farmers Against Hunger.