In Defense of the Park Slope Food Coop

Thats really nice produce. Theres nothing wrong with really nice produce.
  • c/o
  • That’s really nice produce. There’s nothing wrong with really nice produce.

There are so many things to make fun of about Brooklyn. We all know this. But some targets are bigger than others (hipsters, Girls, etc.) and one of the biggest is probably the Park Slope Food Coop. It has all the elements for easy mockery. I mean, first of all, it’s in Park Slope. And we all know that Park Slope is the worst place on earth because of all the children there. Children are just all monsters, aren’t they? Plus, the Food Coop is a place where people go to get organic vegetables and meat and, like, artisanal chocolate. And, ugh, stop trying so hard, people! Why does it matter if you put good things in your body? Stop being such pretentious assholes. And also, the Food Coop is a place where the members all debate things like whether or not to use plastic bags or stock food from companies they don’t politically support. Which, terrible, right? I mean, a lively and intelligent debate about issues that matter to people? Who do the Coop members think they are anyway? Jesus.

Well, so those are the the arguments against the Food Coop anyway, and they have all been rounded up along with a few select quotes in a profile of the Coop in the Daily News. And while plenty of the quotes are objectively funny and indicative of the inherent absurdity of any privileged population who places maybe a little too much importance on kale (“There was a day when we ran out of kale and people were ready to burn the co-op to the ground. The intercom went crazy with ‘Do we have kale!?’ ‘Do we have kale!?’ ‘Someone needs to get fired!’ It was doomsday.”) I think that the News does a disservice to the Coop as an institution and to the many, MANY members who are not parodies of Park Slope residents.

First, I should mention that I am not a member of the Coop, nor have I ever been one, because I have no work ethic and couldn’t even commit to the less than three hours of work per month. But I have long been intrigued by the Coop because the prices are ridiculously good. I mean, incomprehensibly good. As the News notes: “With delicacies ranging from wild boar to artisan Mast Brother’s chocolate and ‘Faux Gras’ (mock foie gras made from walnuts), most priced at 20%-40% less than the competition, the market offers its shoppers high-end ingredients at deep discounts.” And there’s a crazy beer selection. Basically, there’s something for everyone if you can just suck it up and bag groceries or work the register for a few hours a month. And who hasn’t wanted to work a register at a grocery store at one point in their life? I love seeing (and judging) what other people are buying! Imagine how great that would be at the Food Coop. So great.

And while the News is disdainful of how the Coop votes on every issue that its members face—”They even vote on key issues like banning plastic bags or stocking Israeli products. They even vote on the vote to potentially ban Israeli products. Talk about a bag of nuts.”—I fail to see why this is purely a negative. Sure, can these meetings (one of which was hilariously live tweeted last year) be a bit ridiculous and lend themselves to parody? Yes. But isn’t it better that serious issues are discussed instead of rules being dictated from on high? I think so.

Plus, the whole thing about the Park Slope Food Coop is no one is forcing you to join. It’s pretty easy to make fun of an institution that you must be a part of, because maybe that’s your only way of dealing with its absurdities. But the Coop isn’t trying to recruit you like a cult would. In fact, it’s really hard to join. There’s a waiting list and all sorts of hoops to jump through before you can become a member. So maybe that’s where some of the non-members’ anger comes from? They couldn’t even bag the groceries of Maggie Gyllenhaal if they wanted. Still and all, I think that as bizarre as it might seem that kids today are growing up knowing all about dehydrated papaya spears (“I didn’t even know what dried papaya spears were until I was in my 20s,” says one poor soul) it’s not a bad thing. It’s never a bad thing to have increased awareness and an open dialogue about the way we consume things. Just don’t be an asshole about it.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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