Ringing in the New Year and attempting to make positive changes in how we live seems to go hand in hand. According to historians, 4,000 years ago ancient Babylonians were among the first people to make New Year's resolutions. The vows they made to their gods were pretty concrete – pay back debts and return objects they had borrowed from others.
My recent New Year’s resolutions haven’t been so well defined. Like most Americans’ my pledges have been secular and center on individual improvement rather than changing something that will benefit the community I live in. At the top of my list each year is the ever popular and oh so wishy-washy “lose some weight” goal. According to Harry Guinness, this type of goal is “too vague to be useful or too hard to get done,” and often results in failure.
The best kind of resolutions are ones that are like the ones made by the ancient Babylonians – they are specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound. And so, in order to maintain some type of link to my wishy-washy goal of losing weight, why not refine that into something more concrete like purchasing more locally produced food? Not only do I love to eat, but I it is something that I have to do in order to survive. The choice is really up to me as to where my food comes from. That said, my resolution for 2020 is to shop more often at the Macomb Food Co-op.
I have always tried to shop locally, and with Barefoot Gardens closing their CSA at the end of this last season, I have yet another opportunity to shift where I spend money on food in my community.
The Macomb Food Co-op, located at 211 South McArthur Street, was officially created on May 27, 2011. Unlike other grocery stores in Macomb, the co-op is owned by community members and staffed by hardworking volunteers who believe in giving back to their community. The benefits of purchasing shares in the co-op include discounts on some items and having an opportunity to actively participate in how the cooperative is run. Memberships are available for $100 a share and can be paid in installments. The co-op is open Tuesdays through Saturdays and is open to everyone, not only members-owners.
One of the underlying goals of the Macomb Food Co-op is the mission to provide members of our community access to products that are sustainably produced in the region. I think that one of the main things that makes a co-op different from any other type of store is the sense of community it engenders. When I stop in, I know that there will likely be some small treat to try, like a new type of cheese, or maybe some hot cider. I know that I will be able to find greens from Barefoot Gardens and other local producers in the refrigerators. When I run out of honey, I know that that there are several local beekeepers whose products are excellent. If I don’t feel like canning my own salsa, no problem, since there are a variety of locally produced varieties to choose from. Virtually everything from bacon to homemade alpaca socks are in stock.
If I want to expand my economic network from Macomb to Galesburg to Sitka, Alaska, I make sure to shop when the co-op hosts one of its wildly popular Sitka Salmon Days. As a member of the co-op my purchase of wild-caught Alaskan seafood comes with 10% discount, or I can sign up for a share of Sitka Salmon to be delivered direct to my door.
The point is, by resolving to change something that will benefit not only me, but also my larger community, I am more likely to succeed. As James Clear suggested in his book Atomic Habits, the key is to start small. Notice, I didn’t say that I would purchase all of my food from the Macomb Food Co-op, I just said I would shop more often at the co-op.
In 2019 I shopped at the co-op once a month. This year, I am going to try to go at least once every two weeks. Yes, it’s a small change, but one that is doable. By committing to shop at the co-op twice a month, I will start to develop a pattern that will benefit not only my family and me, but also the wellbeing of my community.
This is what James Clear calls, the “art of showing up.” When I commit to show up at the co-op twice a month, I will find something wonderful to spend my money on, thus supporting this great local resource.
As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Hope to see you at the Macomb Food Co-op soon. Together we can change our community for the better.
Heather McIlvaine-Newsad is a professor of Anthropology at Western Illinois University.
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the university or Tri States Public Radio. Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.