Martha’s Vineyard is at the forefront of a worldwide effort to reduce plastic consumption and waste, but it can still be difficult to find products at the grocery store that don’t use plastic and are entirely organic.
The goal of the Martha’s Vineyard Food Cooperative is to bring low-waste, entirely organic food and home goods to Islanders, at a reduced price.
Eva Raposa created the co-op with the help of Vineyard Grocer after, wanting to buy food that did not use any plastic. She found that most grocery stores on the Island sold smaller portions of food mostly in plastic bags, but realized that by ordering in bulk online, she could get large quantities of the food she wanted in paper bags.
Currently, the co-op is located above Rymes Propane in Vineyard Haven in a small office, but Raposa said she anticipates finding a larger, permanent space soon.
“We are so thankful to Vineyard Grocer. They allowed us to log into their system and order in bulk,” Raposa said. “It is more eco-friendly because the Vineyard Grocer trucks are still making the trip to the supplier, but we get to have our food too.”
Raposa said she thinks about everything from processing to packaging, to shipping, whenever she orders food with Vineyard Grocer.
“Our biggest goal is to have better access to organic food that doesn’t use any plastic,” Raposa said.
Vineyard Grocer owner Elio Silva said his store’s goals are closely aligned with those of the food co-op. Because Vineyard Grocer receives a volume discount from its supplier, Silva said it only made sense to allow the co-op to buy at-cost food from them.
“We have a buyer who scouts products and finds the best prices and options,” Silva said. “If the co-op tried to go out and buy food themselves, the price difference would be huge.”
Silva said he is excited to see the community embrace a resource that will advance the eco-consciousness of the Island even further.
“Eva is very knowledgeable about health foods and organics, and she is dedicated to being environmentally sustainable,” Silva said. “I believe she can bring a lot to the table on this initiative.”
Because the co-op is volunteer-run, Raposa said, overhead stays low, which keeps prices down. Another central goal for Raposa is zero-waste — every lentil, cashew, and medjool date is sold to and consumed by Islanders and Island families. Raposa may order a 25-pound bag of beans in a paper bag, and sell each pound individually, or sell the bag in 5-pound increments.
Similar to a co-op off-Island, the co-op on the Vineyard incorporates a membership that provides discounts and the ability to pre-order specific amounts of food for each order.
Members also have access to different hand-selected specials every month.
The specials for September included chickpeas, white quinoa, and pumpkin seeds, all at reduced prices.
“We really are centered around our members, because they are what allow us to continue operating and providing this valuable service,” Raposa said.
Members come for pickup two or three times a month on Thursdays, and bring their own containers to transport their food. (The co-op also offers at-cost Mason jars for those who don’t have their own containers.)
And the list of options at the co-op is entirely based on suggestions from members, so folks get exactly what they want and in the right quantities.
During pickup times, from 4 to 8 pm, Raposa invites the public to explore the co-op and the different products they offer. “It’s usually just a very fun and informative time where anyone can come and buy food. You don’t have to be a member,” Raposa said.
Currently, there are 26 families utilizing this service as members. This month alone, the co-op sold about 500 pounds of food, and it’s only their third month in business.
Raposa said the co-op is a solution for people on-Island who want to go plastic-free but can’t afford the prices of ordering food independently or buying it at a grocery store.
“Lots of people on the Island don’t want to use plastic, but sometimes that can be hard to find,” Raposa said. “This service exists because it needs to exist.”
In the future, Raposa said she hopes she can collaborate with other Island businesses and organizations, and eventually expand into a full-scale retail location, complete with a commercial kitchen.
“I know this is just the start of the co-op, and I am excited to see where we take it in the future,” Raposa said.
Visit MVYCoop.org for more information, or call 508-687-3007. Membership fees are $49 per year for a one-adult family, or $69 for a two-adult family.