Essentials of Coop Membership
Thank you for your interest in joining the Park Slope Food Coop.
Before March 2020 the Coop held in-person orientations in our meeting room, with upwards of sixty people per session. Orientations lasted about two hours. Now, to comply with our health and safety guidelines, we’ve created this self-certifying online orientation that will be safer, and much faster. To complete the orientation we ask that you read the below summary of Coop membership, watch a three-minute video and agree to a short list of Coop tenets. Once you’ve done those things you will need to make an in-person appointment at the Coop to finalize the joining process. At that appointment you’ll fill out and sign an application, show your proof of identity and address, and have your photo taken. This appointment takes about 15 minutes. You’ll be able to start shopping the following day.
The information below will not be repeated at your appointment so please take the time to read it now.
Who We Are
Founded in 1973, the Park Slope Food Coop is the oldest and largest member-labor-required cooperative grocery store in the world. Right now we have about 14,000 members who are also owners, workers and shoppers. In a typical week the Coop sells more than $800,000 worth of products. Only members may shop at the Coop, and membership is open to all.
The Work Requirement
To be a member in good standing, you’ll need to complete one (1) two-hour-and-45-minute shift every six weeks.
You’ll be responsible for scheduling shifts using our online shift calendar, located within your Member Services account, which you’ll activate once you’ve joined the Coop. You get to choose when you work and the kind of work that you do. The first shift of the day is at 5am and the last one starts at 8:30pm, seven days a week.
There are a variety of shifts to choose from like stocking shelves, unloading delivery trucks, running a checkout, answering phones in the office, cleaning, food processing and outdoor cart return.
You’ll have the option of working “freelance,” which means you can schedule each shift in advance, or you can choose a “recurring” shift that meets on the same day and at the same time every six weeks.
The Coop understands that some members aren’t able to work and for that reason, we do have a few work exemptions. You can be exempted from working temporarily or permanently because of a health condition, or if you are caring for someone with a serious health condition. To qualify for such a work exemption you will be asked to provide documentation from a licensed health care provider.
New parents can also take advantage of a work exemption. After the birth or adoption of a child, your household gets 12 months of parental leave. That’s 12 months per child, not per parent. So if you have twins, your household gets 24 months of parental leave. For current members, parental leave is calculated from the baby’s birth or arrival date. For new members joining with a child who is less than one year old, parental leave will be calculated from the join date to the baby’s first birthday.
If you want to join the Coop and you live with other adults—a partner, friends, children over the age of 18 and out of high school, elderly parents—they have to join the Coop too. Why? Because they will be eating the food and enjoying our low prices. To benefit from the Coop, everyone must contribute to the Coop. There are no exceptions to this rule. It’s very common for members to do work shifts for their partners or other family members.
And what about housemates? You might be saying, “I have a roommate I barely know and we don’t share anything.” If you live with someone who isn’t a family member, with whom you share no food or other Coop products, and who doesn’t want to join the Coop, we don’t require them to join. But if you do join the Coop without your housemates and they start getting curious about the awesome products you bring home, we ask you to do the right thing. Instead of buying them groceries, we hope you’ll ask them to join so they can contribute to the well-being of the Coop.
Joining Fee and Investment
In addition to working, every member of the household must pay a one-time, non-refundable joining fee of $25 and member-owner equity investment (MOEI) of $100. The investment is refundable if you leave the Coop.
If you receive a qualifying form of income-based assistance, your joining fee will be $5 and MOEI will be $10. Proof to qualify for the reduced MOEI will need to be renewed annually.
The following types of income-based assistance are accepted for a reduced fee and MOEI:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Fair Fare (MTA)
- NY State Health — Essential Plan
- NY Epic Fee Plan
- WIC (We don’t accept WIC in the store, only as proof of reduced-payment eligibility.)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher
Members who qualify for the reduced MOEI will receive a base markup of 21%.
In addition to making a monetary investment, being a Coop owner means participating and taking part in decision-making. Since 1974 Coop members have been writing and editing the Linewaiters’ Gazette, our online newsletter. Every member is welcome to write letters to the editor and contribute articles. We hope you’ll read each issue to stay informed of what’s happening at the Coop.
Another great way to participate is to attend our monthly General Meeting (GM), held on the last Tuesday of every month, currently via Zoom. You’ll get a chance to discuss issues, vote on important proposals, hear updates and financial reports. To attend a GM, you must sign up in advance online. If there’s an issue that’s really important to you, you can submit an agenda item for consideration at a GM. Any active member can submit an agenda item using this form.
What Do We Sell?
Until this point we’ve summarized your role as a worker and an owner. But you will also be a shopper! So let’s get to the best part—really good food at fair prices. What does the Coop sell? How do we keep our prices so low? What makes a good Coop shopper?
The Coop is a one-stop shopping destination. We sell local, organic and conventionally grown produce; pasture-raised and grass-fed meat; free-range, organic and kosher poultry; fair-trade chocolate and coffee; wild and sustainably farmed fresh and frozen fish; supplements and vitamins; imported and artisanal cheese; freshly baked bread, muffins, scones and croissants; beer; bulk grains and spices; a large selection of CBD products; environmentally safe cleaning supplies and so much more.
Sales are brisk at the Coop. Our inventory is replenished more than once every week. This means that the products we sell are as fresh as possible. The Coop has been buying local since before it was a trendy tag line. When our local growing season is in full swing, the vast majority of the Coop’s grown and raised product comes from within the 100- to 200-mile range—this includes many of the more than 40 local small-scale produce farms we buy from. Even when our regional growing season ends, we try to buy as close to home as possible.
Since our inception, the Coop has strived to keep our store free of harmful food. Our buyers try to avoid artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners; artificial preservatives and fats; partially hydrogenated oils, and sodium nitrate. One of the great things about shopping at the Coop is knowing that our buyers are vetting the food—not from a profit-making perspective but rather to meet the needs of our members.
Most grocery stores mark up their products anywhere from 30 to 80 percent above wholesale. In August of 2020 members voted at a General Meeting to approve a 4% increase to the Coop’s markup, bringing our markup from 21% to 25%. This temporary increase has helped us recoup the loss of sales revenue we’ve experienced throughout the pandemic. The 25% markup is still in place. We continue to be dedicated to making the Coop affordable for all. Members who provide proof of one of the above-mentioned income-based assistance will be opted out of the 4% markup increase and keep their prices at the 21% markup.
How to Be a Good Shopper
Okay, getting hungry? Are you ready to go shopping? Before you do let’s do a quick rundown of the ins and outs of shopping at the Coop:
- CHECK IN WITH THE ENTRANCE WORKER. Always scan your membership card at the entrance desk before you shop or work.
- COMPLETE YOUR SHOPPING BEFORE YOU GET ON THE CHECKOUT LINE. Do not leave your cart unattended to shop while waiting on line. However, it is okay to shop for items you pass while you are on line.
- PAY IMMEDIATELY FOR CHECKED-OUT GROCERIES. Groceries that have been checked out must be paid for immediately. If you need an exception to this rule (to go the ATM, for example), please speak to a staff member.
- DON’T SHOP AT THE COOP FOR NON-COOP MEMBERS. As a member, you may not purchase groceries for non-members. One member may purchase groceries for another member as long as both members’ shopping privileges are current.
- To avoid the appearance of impropriety, DON’T ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE CHECKED OUT BY HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS OR FAMILY MEMBERS. Also, do not wait for a particular checkout worker, unless you are doing so to avoid the station of a household member or family member.
- DON’T PARK IN FRONT OF THE COOP or on the Coop’s sidewalk. The driveway of the firehouse next door must be kept clear at all times. Do not leave someone in a car outside the Coop while you shop. That limited space is for deliveries and for members to load their cars. Park nearby and bring your car to the front after paying. Better yet, use a cart return walker.
- The Coop DOES NOT accept credit cards. We accept PIN-based debit and bank cards, cash, EBT (Snap) and manufacturers’ coupons. We also accept Apple and Google Pay as long as it’s linked to your debit card, not your credit card.
There is a lot more to know about the Coop that we can’t possibly cover in this format. We encourage you to explore our website, specifically the Membership Manual, and to follow us on Instagram and Twitter. For a quick reference guide, check out our FAQs page.
Once you’ve joined the Coop, the Membership Office is a great place to ask for help. The Office is located on the second floor of the Coop and is open six days a week to assist members and answer questions regarding membership.