While it is becoming an overused term, there is no better way to say it—the last four months have been “unprecedented times” for our country, community and co-op. Policies around social distancing, mask enforcement, and sanitizing protocols were nowhere in our minds as we entered 2020, but they now are the norm. Twin Cities Co-op Partners has had to adapt to a multitude of new challenges. And we have done it by focusing on the key principles: 1) ensuring a safe environment for employees and customers; 2) providing consistent access to food for our community; 3) keeping people employed and well compensated; and 4) managing the business so that we can continue to operate for the long term. Sometimes facing competing challenges, we have made decisions that best fulfill these four principles and have relied on our amazing team of 400 employees to operate nimbly and with care through challenging conditions. While the business has looked a little different and shopping patterns have changed, we believe we have successfully operated for the past four months—during which the business has thrived, customers have had access to food at a time when there are shortages in the food system, and we have invested over $350,000 in our staff for hazard pay.
On top of dealing with a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, we have all come face to face—with the brutal murder of George Floyd—with racism that has existed for centuries. In the aftermath of the horrific act and the protests that followed, the focus has been on how the community rebuilds and how we address the long-standing systemic mistreatment of and racism against the Black community. As a co-op, we have a long history of supporting the community, and we have stepped up in this difficult time—as outlined in the article on page 8.
But the issue of racism is complicated, and there is still a lot of work to do. As a board and an organization, we have over the past year developed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative through many long conversations with our consultants, Janice Downing and Karen DeYoung. A key element of the plan is building bridges in the community and starting from a place of listening and seeking to understand. That work today is more important now than ever. We stand in front of the ownership and the community acknowledging there are still many difficult conversations to be had and work to be done. We need to continue on a journey from being non-racist to more deliberately antiracist. And in the coming months, we will be reaching out to many employees, owners, and community leaders to discuss how we do a better job of making the sign that says “Everyone Welcome Everyday” ring true.
In difficult times like we are facing now, the importance of coming together as a community is greater than ever. Twin Cities Co-op Partners plays an essential role in this, and we want to let you—our employees, owners, farmers, and community—know we truly appreciate your support of building community by developing a strong local food system, both over the last four months and going forward.
On behalf of the management team and board of directors, we want to thank our staff for their dedication, professionalism, advocacy, and support of the cooperative principles. To our shoppers, you embody the co-op, and this has never been more evident than the past few months. Our sincere and heartfelt thanks go out to you.