Next week Weavers Way will bring the nation’s cooperative community back to its roots by drawing them to Philadelphia—where Benjamin Franklin arguably started the movement with The Philadelphia Contributionship, a fire insurance company.
From June 14 through 16 the 40-year-old Mt. Airy-based cooperative will host the annual national Consumer Cooperative Management Association Conference (CCMA) at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Last year’s conference was held in San Diego. This will be the first time in the conference’s 55-year history that it has been held in Philadelphia.
“Philadelphia has a history of co-ops,” said Weavers Way spokesman Jonathan McGoran. “There’s so much really cool co-op activity going on right now.”
Among that activity is Weavers Way’s possible expansion to Roxborough and Manayunk, cooperatives for things like babysitting and energy and the birth of new cooperatives in South Philadelphia, Doylestown, Ambler and Kensington.
Weavers Way, McGoran said, is the largest cooperative in the city of Philadelphia—at a whopping 5,000 member households. However, it’s far from the largest in the nation. He estimates it’s the smallest of the nation’s large cooperatives.
Marion Nestle to speak
The conference will host a variety of movers and shakers—Congressman Chaka Fattah, food nutrition expert Marion Nestle and, of course and appearance from “Benjamin Franklin.”
Fattah introduced the National Cooperative Development Act of 2011—which promotes the creation of co-ops to help create jobs and economic development.
Nestle—the keynote speaker—is a New York University Paulette Goddard professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health. Among her accomplishments—she edited The Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health as well as served as the senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services from 1986 to 1988, and she authored several books—three of which won awards and two of which were on pet nutrition. Nestle also writes a weekly food column for the San Francisco Chronicle and is an avid user of Twitter and blogs almost daily at foodpolitics.com.
Nestle said her work ties in with the agenda of cooperatives.
“Co-ops are an alternative business model and my work is about the politics of food, particularly how our current corporate, free market, and industrial business models affect nutrition and public health,” she said. “It’s what I already do.”
But what many of Nestle’s admirers may not know is her history in co-op culture.
“I lived in a co-op dorm when I was a student at Berkeley,” she said. “I did my co-op work in food service and I like to think it’s what started me on my career. After I graduated, I did all my food shopping at the Berkeley Co-op on Shattuck, and later joined a baby-sitting co-op.”
McGoran said anyone is welcome to attend the conference. To register, visit www.ccma.coop.
(Revised: To correct the location of the conference)