The entire store is lined wall to wall with organic, healthy,
whole foods from the colorful produce section to the rows
of raw and bulk food items just waiting to be taken off the shelves.
We’re talking about the Kalamazoo People’s Food Co-op.
“People of every single class and race should be able to
shop here comfortably, and we want that. We want our doors
to be open to everybody. You don’t need to be an owner to
shop here,” said Amber Hejl, an employee of the People’s
Food Co-op of Kalamazoo since April 2011.
Local foods are those that are transported than 400 miles from its origin or within
the State in which it is produced, ato the definition that the U.S. Congress adopted
in the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (2008 Farm Act).
Local Kalamazoo residents can find a variety of local foods at the Co-op.
“We aren't as tempted to get carryout food because we have this great produce and
need to use it up right away,” said Emily Klimek, a stay-at-home mom and local produce
The People’s Food Co-op of Kalamazoo moved from its old location on Burdick Street
in June of 2011 to its new location at 507 Harrison St. The best thing about move
is the increase in space, according employees and customers alike.
“That’s the best thing about having more space, especially, [is] getting more food
in for everyone, more options, different things,” Hejl said.
Jace Raver, a produce assistant at People’s since February 2011, said he likes the
atmosphere of the Co-op and the message it sends to the community.
“There’s always a conversation going on about food security and the food quality
and the sense of social justice. It’s nice coming to work and knowing you’re on the
front lines of that every day making an impact in some way. We have daily shoppers,
people we see every Saturday, and then there are new faces every day too,” he said.
The People’s Food Co-op of Kalamazoo carries a variety of Michigan grown and Michigan
“You’ll find a few little products around the store and they will say ‘Local’ on
them. We have stickers that say ‘Local,’” Hejl said.
Blue Dog Greens, Cinzori Farm, Kirkland Farms from right here in Kalamazoo, Multer
Orchards, Hillhoff Milk and Otto’s Chicken are just a few of the local providers
along with local providers of cheese, maple syrup, honey and bread.
“These farmers need people to buy their food. If everyone is buying produce from
Mexico, then we’re not making any money here and we need to keep the money in our
own towns here. Keep it flowing,” Hejl said.
People’s makes it easier for residents to shop local by sponsoring the 100-Mile
Market. The 100- Mile Market takes place every Wednesday evening from 3 p.m. to 7p.m.
from May through October. Only foods from a 100-mile radius around Kalamazoo are
sold at the market. This market is located right in the People’s Food Co-op parking
Shopping and eating local is a way of life some local residents, and the Co-op helps
meet the needs of these locavores.
The locavore lifestyle has even caught attention of younger generations. The Girl
Scouts have introduced a new locavore badge to senior scouts ages 14 to 16. In order
to achieve the locavore badge, the scouts must learn everything from agriculture,
vending and preparation.
Klimek has a 4-year-old daughter, and she said she thinks the idea of this badge
is great for older girls.
“I remember being in college and only eating crackers and cheese from a can. I wish
I had the knowledge of nutrition then like I have now,” she said.
Buying and shopping local can be beneficial and open new doors for families.
Klimek said she gets all of her produce from co-ops, and they have inspired her
to be more creative at mealtime.
“An unexpected bonus from the Co-op produce was for me to expand how we use the
produce. I got a dehydrator from Craigslist and dry my own apples and grapes,” she
said. “The kids love smoothies so I got a juicer from Craigslist as well and use
that to make carrot, celery and apple juice so that the smoothies have some vegetables
in them too!”
Being a busy mother, active in both of her children’s schools and sports teams,
co-ops have eliminated shopping stress and has provided Klimek with “thinking-free”
shopping, she said.
“The prices are better in a co-op than a grocery store so I don't have to think
about using coupons or paying attention to sales which I don't do normally,” she