Growing Local Roots

Shop Local, Eat Local

By: Bridget Kennedy


Have you ever wondered how the food on your plate actually

gets there? Well one store in Kalamazoo has some answers.

The Kalamazoo People’s Food Co-op helps residents

support the local food movement.


 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 shopper.


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 made products.


 “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 lot.


 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 said.