The ELFCO Scoop - East Lansing Food Co-op


The ELFCO Scoop - East Lansing Food Co-op
The ELFCO Scoop
A publication of the East Lansing Food Co-op, community owned since 1976
I n This Issue
Shiny and New! Cover
From the GM
p. 2
From the Board
p. 2
Annual Report
p. 3
Meet the Nominees p. 5
Just Label It p. 7
Owner Appreciation
Discount Back
ELFCO is now on
Look for new ELFCO
website coming in May!
Spring 2012
ELFCO – Shiny and New!
f you haven’t been in the co-op in a
while, you are in for a treat! In late
2011 we embarked on an ambitious
remodeling of the store which features:
larger produce, bulk, and beer & wine
sections; new meat and cheese coolers:
a new fully accessible public restroom;
and specially designed and highly
efficient LED lighting throughout
the back half of the store. We also
replaced the old front door with a new
double-paned thermal unit and put a
new receiving door and ramp in back
to make unloading trucks much easier
for staff. Polished concrete floors are
VOC-free and reduce our need to use
harsh chemicals for upkeep. We were
able to keep the store open during most
of the construction largely because
of the willingness of the folks from
VanErmen construction and Alternative
Electric to do their work during slow
periods and to come in at night to do
the heavy stuff. Thanks to Rachel
Adams, our project coordinator, who
made sure that you all got the beautiful
store that ELFCO owners deserve (and
that we got the most for our money).
And finally, thanks to all of our
regular shoppers who put up with the
occasional construction hubbub, items
moving around the store, and lowlevel chaos that comes with any good
remodeling project. We appreciate all
the great feedback that we’ve gotten
and look forward to seeing everyone
who hasn’t seen the “new” ELFCO
ELFCO Scoop Spring 2012
ELFCO continues to move ahead
with new board members soon,
products in the store now, prospects
for the organization in the future, and
with the return of the sun, another
chapter of the community garden.
This summer, the board will attend
the 2012 CBLD Conference in
Mount Pleasant, along with board
members from food coops from
around Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.
We will see old friends and meet new
ones. It’s a great occasion to discuss
lots of coop issues. Each person
brings a new insight or experience
to each of our problems, so we
get to generally charge our “co-op
From the Board
Owners are welcome at ELFCO
board meetings. Check the bulletin
board for the current meeting
schedule. Unless otherwise noted,
our board meetings take place in
East Lansing at the Technology and
Innovation Center (TLC) at 325 E.
Grand River Ave., on the 3rd Floor
of the old Jacobsen’s Building.
Very Cooperatively Yours,
Ray Kamalay
ELFCO Board President
Look for
on page 5
Vote By
pril 21
Note from the General Manager
On being an “Owner”
I’m often asked what the difference
is between ELFCO and other natural
foods stores in the area, and my
answer always starts with “ELFCO
is owned by the community and
operates primarily for the benefit
of its owners and the community.”
Recently, I was asked the follow
up question “but what does it mean
to be an owner?” And that got me
thinking… what does being an
owner mean to you, for the business,
and for the co-op as an alternative
model to “business as usual”?
Most co-ops have upswings and
downturns in terms of owner
involvement. In the years since
moving to East Lansing and joining
ELFCO I have seen lots of member
involvement during the financial
crisis we encountered in 2004-05, and
I’ve seen Annual Owner Meetings
where board and staff outnumbered
owners in attendance. It seems that
we know how to come together in
times of need, but that we haven’t
yet mastered coming together to
celebrate our successes and to plan
for our future. I think that it is part
of my job as General Manager to
help create the opportunities for all
of you to experience the joy (and
occasional burden) of ownership in
this community-owned enterprise.
Years ago, I promised that if the
owners would support the co-op
as we attempted to turnaround our
financial situation, we would reward
you with some sort of benefit when we
could. And as soon as we were “out
of the woods” we created the “10%
on the 10th” owner appreciation
discount day. The popularity of
the owner appreciation day led to
record sales days and a sense of
community as old friends got to
visit in the aisles and often rekindle
friendships. But that popularity also
came with its own set of problems,
and many regular shoppers shared
that this benefit of being an owner
lacked utility for them due to the
crowds, falling on inconvenient days
for them to shop, and other issues.
So, hearing that we’ve changed to a
“pick your own owner appreciation
day” so that each owner can now
choose the one shopping trip a
month that works best for them to
take their discount. We REALLY
want the benefits of being an owner
to be readily apparent to each and
every ELFCO owner.
The next benefit of ownership that
we are hoping to bring you will be
Patronage Dividends. The board and
I have been discussing this and have
found that before we can actually
give out dividends to owners, we
have some work to do on our bylaws
to allow that. As an owner, you’ll
likely be asked to vote on some
bylaws revisions in the coming year.
Being informed and getting out to
vote will be an important element of
exercising your power as an owner.
Another opportunity to participate as
an owner will be coming up on April
21st as we host the Annual Owner
Meeting (for more information see
page 3). Besides the great food at
the potluck, the chance to vote for
board members, the opportunity to
hear how the co-op did last year,
and what plans the board and staff
have for the coming year, YOU will
have an opportunity to talk with
the board and other members about
your thoughts, ideas, comments and
concerns. We hope to see lots of
owners there!
ELFCO Scoop Spring 2012
ELFCO 2011 Annual Report
elcome to the 2011 annual
report. This year, for the first
time in a long time, we have a mixed
bag to report. Financially things
didn’t go so well. Sales dropped a
bit from 2010, personnel costs were
higher than usual, and overall we lost
money for the first time since 2006.
On the bright side, we did get the
store remodeled with only limited
distruptions to daily operations,
we’ve undertaken a number of
projects both inside and outside of
the store, the board completed their
first year of Policy Governance,
and we’ve seen positive results
from the adjustments we made to
counter declining sales. Let’s start
by looking at the decline in sales in
Financial performance for 2011
Sales dropped 6% overall in
2011. We attribute that in part to
artificially increased sales in 2010
due to shoppers we gained during
the construction on the bridge near
our competitor to the east. We
didn’t realize that those 2010 sales
increases were partially due to
circumstance, and fully expected to
see continued growth in 2011 when
we prepared our budget for 2011.
Once the bridge re-opened, a good
portion of those shoppers returned
to our competitor it seems, and
sales declined to level that barely
bested 2009 sales. We think that
the remaining sales decline in 2011
might be in part to the construction
and associated “mess” during our
remodeling efforts. The good news
is that sales growth for the first
quarter of 2012 is strong and back
in line with pre-2011 sales growth
trends (approximately 10% over
sales in the prior year).
While preparing the 2011 budget,
there was an assumption that we’d
need to increase staffing in order to
maintain a high level of customer
service for our shoppers and when
sales dropped we maintained our
commitment to those staff members
who we had recently hired. Thus the
personnel costs for ELFCO in 2011
were the highest as a percentage of
sales that they have been since 2006.
We also had the added expense of
hiring a project manager to oversee
the remodeling project (an expense
that was well worth the incredible
outcome) and we also have the
costs of a producer for ELFCO’s
community access program ELFCO
TV, which we undertook in 2011.
The staff and I are in the midst of
a restructuring of the ELFCO staff
organization chart in order to both
address personnel costs and to utilize
each staff member’s strengths.
Between the decreased sales and the
increased personnel costs, we posted
the first negative net income for the
co-op since 2006. The shortfall
East Lansing Food Co-op - Annual Owner Meeting – 2012
Saturday, April 21st – Noon to 3pm
Nokomis Learning Center, 5151 Marsh Rd., Okemos, MI
(This site is fully accessible)
Draft agenda - subject to change
Call meeting to order
and Potluck Lunch
Approve minutes 2011 Owners Meeting
2011 in Review
Presentation on ELFCO TV and
ELFCO website
Plans for 2012 and Beyond
Owner Comments & Questions
Announce results of board elections
Announce winner of diners’ choice potluck
ELFCO Scoop Spring 2012
ELFCO 2011 Annual Report
was just over $23,000, however, all
indications so far for 2012 show
that with increased sales and tighter
control over personnel costs we are
looking like we’ll just about break
even again starting in the first quarter
of 2012.
Accomplishments in 2011
Let’s not forget about all that we
accomplished in 2011. The major
event was the store remodeling
project. What started as an idea
that we’d replace some old grocery
shelves (and use the old ones in
the vitamins and supplements area)
turned into something bigger and
more worthy of ELFCO’s shoppers
and supporters! Credit has to go to
Rachel, our project coordinator, who
really convinced me that we should
invest in the store. I think that we’re
all glad that she had the foresight to
do the remodeling right.
We also launched ELFCO TV. Dave
Johnson, who learned about ELFCO
while doing a student project at MSU
in 2010, took the reins of this project
and has produced hours of highquality and informative viewing for
anyone who is interested in learning
more about food and food related
issues in our area. Our goal with
the program is to introduce viewers
to the vast variety of folks working
in the food system in the capital area
and to help get the word out about
co-ops and other great organizations.
We’ve had shows on local growers,
the food trucks movement in
Lansing, the benefits of a raw foods
diet, and more. We still have another
year of producing shows to do, so if
you have ideas for an episode, please
share them with us!
The Board completed their first year
of using Policy Governance (PG)
in 2011. In PG, the board creates a
set of goals (ends) for the business
and creates a list of things that the
General Manager can NOT do to
reach those ends (like nothing illegal,
etc). They then exercise oversight
by requiring the GM to report
monthly on a portion of the policies
that they have set out and present the
Board with data that demonstrates
compliance to the policies, or a plan
to get compliant if not currently.
It was an interesting year and we
learned a great deal about how to use
PG effectively.
We are still hopeful that we’ll
be getting our new Point of Sale
System (POS) up and running this
year. That will involve finding
some collaborators within the coop system in order to share some
of the development costs of the
infrastructure of this open source
system, but we have been talking
to another co-op in the area about
working together on this. So there
is some hope that we’ll accomplish
this project this year.
What is on tap for 2012?
We also lost one of our tenants at
the end of the year when Kevena’s
salon next door went out of business.
We thought about what to do with
the space, and while the rent is
attractive, we decided that we needed
a space for meetings (staff, board,
and owner) as well as someplace
where we could capture that sense of
community that was created during
10% on the 10th. We plan to unveil
the space next door as a location for
meetings, presentations, classes and
Continued on Page 5
The staff and I are working to
increase sales (one of the policies
of the board… and a good idea in
any business) and undertaking a
reorganization of the staff to make
the best use of every personnel
dollar. We believe that we’ll be
able to better serve your needs by
getting the right people in the right
jobs, and then we’ll be working on
increased staff training throughout
the organization.
ELFCO Scoop Spring 2012
2012 BoD Elections
even cooking demonstrations. Look
for more information coming soon.
ELFCO’s website should be
redesigned and re-launched in late
April. We hope to have a preview
at the Annual Owner Meeting on
the 21st. We have a group of MSU
students who have been diligently
working on this as a class project
all semester long and the prototypes
look great! The new website will
contain more information than the
ELFCO site ever has before and is
being designed with ease of upkeep
and updating as a primary element.
We have other ideas on the back
burner… but we don’t want to
share too much until we have some
elements of them lined up and we
make sure that they are ready to
go. Rest assured that our 2011
performance has been a wake-up call
that all of us are heeding!
I think it is fair to say that 2011
wasn’t our best year, but it certainly
wasn’t as bad as some that ELFCO
has survived… remember it was
just 2005 when we lost nearly
$140,000… and we have seen great
results from our attempts to correct
course already.
We welcome your thoughts about
what ELFCO can do to better meet
your needs and we appreciate that
many of you take the time to tell us
when we get it right too!
Here’s looking to a great 2012!
In co-operation,
Dave Finet
General Manager
Nominee: Anne Woiwode
to engage with our neighbors.
Why do you want to serve on the
ELFCO Board of Directors?
What do you think ELFCO’s role in the
community should be?
For more than 25 years my family
has been a part of ELFCO, and for a
decade this has been the place where
I do almost all of my shopping. ELFCO’s emphasis on local, organic
and sustainable foods and products
meshes with our family’s commitment
to crafting an environmentally sound
future. I strongly support the efforts of
ELFCO as a cooperative to provide a
viable alternative model for commerce
for members and customers. I am also
eager to help shape and implement a
broader vision for the role of ELFCO
in our community in the future. ELFCO provides an alternative model
for doing business in our community,
and has the potential to help change the
community itself through providing
a great market for sustainable
friendly products. We can do more
by educating owners and other
community members, providers and
consumers about the options available.
Informed and engaged consumers can
help drive significant environmental
and sustainability changes locally.
What is/are your favorite ELFCO
My top priority is locally grown and
processed foods, and I love being
able to find everything from fruits
and vegetables, to beer and soy milk
from producers within 100 miles of
What is your dream for the co-op in
the next two years?
Despite the challenging economic
times of recent years, consumers
where their food comes from. This
intense awareness and concerns
offers an opportunity for ELFCO
to broaden and engage more of our
community members, both producers
and consumers, in conscious and
conscientious consumption. ELFCO
owners are incredibly dedicated
and engaged in the mission of the
cooperative. I’d like to see us invite
in more of those in the community
who can benefit from the healthy,
environmentally sound vision that
ELFCO embraces. Whether it
is through outreach, programs or
partnerships with groups representing
disadvantaged communities, I look
forward to working with staff and
other owners to look for opportunities
What else would you like ELFCO
owners to know about you?
For the past 30+ years I have been
a part of the Sierra Club Michigan
Chapter, and served as the Chapter
Director for much of that time. For
eight years in the early 2000’s I served
on the Meridian Township Board of
Trustees. These two experiences have
given me a solid background in nonprofit management, budgeting and
policy governance, all skills that will
be useful as a member of the ELFCO
Board. I would appreciate your vote! Nominee: Bob Lovell
Why do you want to serve on the
ELFCO Board of Directors?
I think there are many more people
who would use ELFCO if it were
better-known and had a wider variety.
I would like to help ELFCO grow. My
impending retirement will give me
time to do this, Board member or not.
What is/are your favorite ELFCO
product(s)? Fresh fruits and veggies.
What is your dream for the co-op in
the next two years? Greater visibility.
What do you think ELFCO’s role in the
community should be?
To provide an alternative source of
healthy foods, and provide community
ELFCO Scoop Spring 2012
for everyone interested in healthy
co-op member/owners can organize,
schedule, share, and communicate.
What else would you like ELFCO
owners to know about you?
What do you think ELFCO’s role in the
community should be?
East Lansing/Meridian Township
resident since 1969. Previous board
for Human Services
UnitarianUniversalist Church of Greater
Lansing (President) Ingham County
Foster Care Review
The Cove
At Whitehills Lakes Condominium
Mid-Michigan Chapter, American
Statistical Association (Secretary)
Considering we are the only
community-owned grocery store, and
one of the precious few cooperatives
in the Greater Lansing Area, I think
that it’s our responsibility to seriously
ponder the true value of our role in
the community. For example, when
I think of the original Rochedale
principles, “People not profits” is the
first thing that comes to mind. We live
in a society/culture that too often has
that concept backwards. Our role as
a cooperative is to lead by example.
I think there are a number of venues
through which we could interface
with the community at ground level;
workshops, seminars, conferences,
booths/kiosks at trade shows and
farmer’s markets. We could invite the
local area schools to have someone
stop in and talk about cooperatives
once in awhile. I think more than
anything else, it’s become our civic
responsibility to see to it that we are
“on the radar” and not just seen as a
fringe element.
Nominee: Dave Johnson
Why do you want to serve on the
ELFCO Board of Directors?
I’m interested in serving on the ELFCO
Board of Directors as a means to give
back to the community, and see to the
continued growth, and success of our
local cooperative. With the problems
brought on by the corporatization of
production, and commodification of
labor, I see the cooperative model as
a breath of fresh air. I don’t enter into
this with a political agenda other than
to provide a fair and neutral voice
that represents the entire spectrum of
What is/are your favorite ELFCO
My favorite ELFCO products are the
fair trade coffees, and Stone Circle
Bakehouse breads. However, it’s the
local produce that stands out as the
real treasure.
What is your dream for the co-op in
the next two years?
My dream for the co-op is to increase
our member/owner base through
open communication, education, and
community engagement. I think an
important component of this will be an
increased emphasis on new forms of
social media, and online interactivity
(videos, surveys, message forums,
recipe sharing, etc). The internet is
a fantastic medium through which
What else would you like ELFCO
owners to know about you?
I’ve been volunteering at the co-op
for around three years now, and I
produce our new show ELFCO TV.
We’ve recently begun gathering all
our videos from the series on the new
YouTube channel: ELFoodCoop. It
can also be seen on Vimeo, hosted by
the Lansing Public Media Center. And
for those who have Xfinity (Comcast)
Lansing, you can watch on your
television through City TV channel
12. This activity offers me the unique
opportunity to regularly interact
with our customers, owners, staff,
growers/producers, and friends in the
community. In this sense, I’m already
out there representing ELFCO in the
community every day. Continuing, or
enhancing that service by helping out
as a board member just seems like a
natural fit.
Nominee: Phil Howard
Why do you want to serve on the
ELFCO Board of Directors?
I’ve conducted research on how
difficult it is to survive in the
rapidly changing organic/natural
foods industry. I’d like to help food
cooperatives (and other kinds of
cooperatives) to thrive, despite the
What is/are your favorite ELFCO
Michigan organic red popcorn (bulk),
Divine Dark Chocolate
What is your dream for the co-op in
the next two years?
Become more well-known to the
greater Lansing community, and
help more people obtain healthy,
sustainable food.
What do you think ELFCO’s role in the
community should be?
Continue to provide food that better
embodies ideals of democracy,
sustainability, and social justice than
other retailers (and tastes great!). Help
spread the word about cooperative
forms of organization and continue
to serve as successful model in the
Lansing area.
What else would you like ELFCO
owners to know about you?
I am a faculty member at Michigan
State University where I teach and
conduct research on social aspects
of food and agriculture. One of my
projects involves visualizing who
owns what in various industries,
including organic brands, natural
and organic distributors, and seed
companies. I became a working
member of a cooperative buying club
in Missouri 20 years ago. Since then
I’ve been a member-owner of food
cooperatives in Washington, Oregon,
and now East Lansing after moving
here almost 6 years ago.
ELFCO Scoop Spring 2012
ELFCO is participating in
International Non-GMO Month.
We have been committed to bringing
safe, healthy food to our community
for 35 years.
As a member
of the national
Association (NCGA), ELFCO has
contributed to the national dialogue
on GMOs and contributes to
advocacy of legislation that would
protect the integrity of our food
supply. We believe:
• farmers should be able to grow
crops that are protected from
GMO contamination by genetic
• producers should be required to
label products that contain GMO
indredients; and
• we all have a right to know
what is in the food we eat.
What Are GMOs?
Genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) combine the DNA
of different species to create
combinations of plant, animal, and
bacterial and viral organisms that
cannot occur in nature or through
traditional crossbreeding. This
genetic engineering (GE) includes
introducing genes that have never
been in the human food supply.
Are GMOs Safe?
Thirty countries around the world—
including all of the countries in the
EU and Japan—have implemented
severe restrictions or bans on GMOs
because they are not known to be
Humans have been consuming
GMOs for less than a decade and
We have the right to know
an increasing number of studies
in peer-reviewed journals suggest
consumption of GMOs may pose
long-term dangers to humans.
Are GMOs Labeled?
The federal government has chosen
not to require companies to label
products that contain GMOs.
The long-term threats to human
health have not been determined, but
it is clear that agricultural practices
made possible by GMOs are unsafe.
Which foods might be
Today, more than 80% of US
corn, soybean and cotton crops are
genetically modified. Ninety percent
of the sugar beets grown in the U.S.
are genetically modified.
Most commercial GMOs—about
68 percent—are
bred to withstand
application of
Tell the FDA: Label Other crops at high risk for
containing GMOs are alfalfa,
My Food
For instance,
canola, and rice. Animal
including milk, meat,
ready” corn allows
eggs, and honey are considered
farmers to broadcast
high risk because of potential
this herbicide to fields
of new crops. Studies show
of feed and
Round-up is linked to statistically
other inputs.
significant increases in birth defects
and neurodevelopmental
How Can I
disorders and a
Avoid GMOs?
growing body of
Buy products
research suggests the
that are USDA
health effects to be
certified organic
or carry the Fair Trade or NonGMO Project label. Some products
Use of toxic
also carry labels by the producer
chemicals has increased
stating that they do not use GMO
15 times since GMOs were
ingredients in the product.
introduced. The long-term impacts
of GMOs on the enviroment are
unknown, but the practices made
possible by GMOs are known to
damage plants, animals, and soil
How do GMOs Affect
It is difficult for farmers to protect
their crops from contamination by
GMOs grown miles away from their
land. Companies holding patents on
GMOs are able to sue farmers whose
crops have become infected with
patented GMOs.
The USDA Organic Rule states that
“The use of genetically engineered
organisms and their products
are prohibited in any form or at
any stage in organic production,
processing or handling.”
The non-GMO Project was created
to conduct third-party verification so
that consumers can make informed
Support labeling of foods that
contain GMOs. Visit http://
4960 Northwind Drive
East Lansing, MI 48823
(517) 337-1266
[email protected]
Mon-Sat 9am-9pm
Sun 10am-8pm
Annual Meeting April 21 Noon - 3pm at Nokomis Learning Center
Be sure to vote in the Board of Directors elections.
Just show your ELFCO card and ask for a ballot from a cashier.
Owner Appreciation Discount
Better Than Ever!
ELFCO’s 10% on the 10th was so
successful that it became difficult
for shoppers to find a place to
park, people were waiting for carts
by the door, we’d run out of items
that folks stocked up on early in
the morning… so successful that it
became aggravating to shoppers and
staff alike. Owners shared concerns
about missing the 10th because they
were out of town, or simply forgot.
The receiving staff shared their
concerns about the huge deliveries
that we received following each
10th. And we listened!
So, starting on April 1st, we’ve
transitioned to a new owner
appreciation discount. Now, you get
to pick your own discount day! Stop
by the store and pick up a punch
card. On one shopping trip each
month YOU get to decide to take
your 10% discount! What to buy
vitamins on the 5th… No Problem!
Having a party on the 18th… pick
up everything you need and save
10% on all eligible items on your
list. Whatever suits your needs best,
that’s when we want you to have
access to your Owner Appreciation
Similar rules apply to use of the
discount card as applied to 10% on
the 10th… only one shopping trip
each month, punches can only be
used in the current month, a small
number of items are excluded
(including beer and wine), one card
per share (so families who have
purchased two shares can save twice
a month… families who share one
share will only receive one discount
per month), lost cards cannot be
We hope that this change will make
the Owner Appreciation Discount a
more useful benefit of ownership for
you, ELFCO’s owners. Please let us
know how it works out!