What’s Next for Our Co-op’s Community Programs in 2023

My job as Outreach & Education Coordinator bears almost no resemblance to what it was prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. While many of the staff’s jobs changed to accommodate the new reality we were experiencing, my work halted completely. Fast forward through the fastest yet simultaneously slowest three years of our lives, and I’m now getting to dip my toes back into the work that fulfills me most—connecting with all of you on a deeper level and sharing the co-op spirit with our communities.

If you’ve shopped at our stores, you probably know there’s never a dull moment around here. We’re always working toward the next big thing, and right now, that’s learning what being a merged co-op with two locations entails, how we’ll get the new store up and running, and what our communities need now. So, I am starting fresh with community work in 2023 by taking some time to evaluate the programs I manage and hope to set new goals for each of them based on what life might be like with two bigger stores.

Here are a few of my goals for community outreach, education programming, and in-store samplings:

COMMUNITY OUTREACH is meeting people where they are and providing information or services to which they wouldn’t otherwise have access. At our co-op, this happens in the form of attending events, such as Meet Menomonie at UW-Stout to connect with students and staff and share where they can find local, healthy options, or tabling at Beaver Creek Reserve’s Pollinator Run/Walk to connect with people interested in living more sustainably. This year, I’d love to continue to grow our co-op’s relationships with the local campuses and provide more education on local food systems and why supporting our area farmers and producers is so important. Another area I hope to expand is food-based events once we have a larger deli to accommodate the extra food production it takes to pull those off. Expect to see me out and about more often this year, and be sure to stop by our co-op tent next time you see it at an event. I am especially looking forward to getting to know our Eau Claire shoppers the way I’ve gotten to know our Menomonie ones over the years.

COMMUNITY EDUCATION is another area I hope to revisit as classes at our Menomonie store have been on hold since before the pandemic, other than a workshop here or there. If this program returns in 2023, I imagine we’ll offer fewer classes overall but that I’ll be more intentional with the topics and instructors I select. It’s my dream that all community classes are taught by experts in their fields—cooking courses instructed by chefs, nutrition classes led by dieticians, and creative workshops taught by local artists. I always keep a list of class topics you request, so watch for some of those to be announced, and don’t hesitate to share your ideas with me.

IN-STORE SAMPLING is the final program I run now that they have started to return. The most noticeable growth of this program will happen when we launch them in Eau Claire once the new store opens this fall, but in the meantime, I plan to continue scheduling samplings more often in Menomonie. Keep an eye on our website’s calendar for local vendor samplings, and look for the black sample domes throughout the store to try unique product pairings, seasonal foods, and new items our staff is currently loving.

This year will be one of evaluation, growth, and expansion, both in the programs that I oversee and our co-op as a whole. Cheers to a fresh start and a very busy 2023!

This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.

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