Plants, Life, Riverside is an ongoing interpretive project about plants in an urban setting and expands ArtPlantae’s mission to encourage an interest in plants. Where do plants reside amidst miles of concrete, asphalt and stucco? Discoveries will be posted in this new column.
Where can you find plants in the city?
Why in the fridge, of course. Open your refrigerator and you will find a selection of fruit, vegetables and plant-based food items such as tomato ketchup and mustard.
I am thrilled to launch this column by introducing you to an organization whose focus is to bring fresh, healthful food into the homes of Riverside residents.
The Riverside Food Cooperative (RFC) is a not-for-profit organization born out of the Occupy Movement. Founder William Cobb participated in Occupy Riverside and began the food cooperative because he wanted to establish a source of organic food available in bulk for local residents.
The Cooperative’s objective is to open a grocery store between Riverside’s historic downtown area and the University of California Riverside campus. The Cooperative is currently raising money to establish their store. The money to pay for the building, refrigerators and other construction expenses is being raised by selling lifetime memberships.
The Riverside Food Cooperative began as an idea and it was this idea I encountered when I visited their booth at the 2012 Riverside Neighborhood Conference in downtown Riverside. They weren’t selling memberships back then, they were only promoting their idea. Since this conference, they incorporated and became a not-for-profit organization in Spring 2013. Membership in the cooperative is a one-time fee of $300 that can be paid in installments of $10 per month. Currently the cooperative has 43 members. The RFC Board says they need 700-1000 memberships to move forward with the grocery store.
Because membership fees are dedicated to the establishment of the grocery store, the cooperative pays for its operational expenses in another way. They pay for these expenses by selling Crop Boxes to members.
For only $27 per month, members have the option of receiving a Crop Box filled with fresh locally grown fruit and vegetables. Each month the Crop Box contains 12-15 items. The day I visited the pick-up location, members werebeing treated to sunflower sprouts, mandarin oranges, a Meyer lemon, a Zutano avocado, leeks, spinach, broccoli, garlic, red leaf lettuce, kale, radishes, cilantro, snap peas, Etta Mae Gourmet artisan jam and Whole Chinese 5-spice ingredients.
As I watched members come and go, I noticed that they arrived with a smile and were eager to trade the now-empty cardboard Crop Box they received last month for a new box filled with nutritious food.
The Riverside Food Cooperative sources their produce from local farmers. They try to get the best of local produce and aim to include 12 items in each box. The selection of produce changes with the seasons and the balance of the items comes from whatever crop is available.
I spoke with Treasurer Sue Struthers the day I visited the pick-up location. Sue is not only the Treasurer, she is also the author of the recipe booklet included in each Crop Box. She writes a new booklet each month. Sue says that eventually the cooperative plans to host cooking classes so they can teach people how to eat healthfully, inexpensively and creatively using the food they receive from local growers.
To encourage the recruitment of new members, the co-op offers special member promotions. This month Riverside Co-op members can receive a free crop box for every new member they bring to the co-op at the $100 or full membership level by February 16. Members can enjoy the crop box they receive, share it with a friend or donate it through the Riverside Food Co-op to Operation Safehouse.
Learn more about the Riverside Food Cooperative on their website and on Facebook. You can also speak with them in-person at the Grow Riverside conference, a conference for local businesses and residents exploring the economic feasibility of urban agriculture. This conference will be held at the Riverside Convention Center March 19-20, 2014.