Meet a Sundown Sponsor: Food Front Cooperative Grocery

The Sundown concert series commenced last Thursday at the Natural Capital Center with a spectacular cello dance party! As we kick it into high gear for the event, we talk with a few folks from Food Front Cooperative Grocery about the co-op and living and working in Portland.

In 1972 a group of neighbors in Northwest Portland joined together to sell groceries out of a little store on 23rd Avenue. Their mission was to provide their community with a place to buy quality groceries that couldn’t be found in regular supermarkets. Even though this first grocery store was small, the impact of people coming together to provide for themselves and their community was immense. Over the years, the store has moved a few times, is now owned by over 10,000 people and has two locations (NW and Hillsdale) and remains committed to providing for our community through selling the highest quality food available, while supporting local schools and environmental nonprofits, feeding the hungry, and boosting our local economy by being the jumping off point for local producers and farmers to enter the market. At Food Front, they live their mission every day: They bridge the gap between local producers and the people of Portland. They fill the shelves of their neighborhood grocery stores with local, fresh foods and all the flavors of each season so you can eat colorfully and live vibrantly.

Why did the co-op become involved in Sundown? (response by: Jessica Miller, Director of Marketing & Outreach)

Ecotrust and Food Front share similar values and are committed to positively impacting our local community, especially with regard to Ecotrust’s work with Food and Farms, Oceans and Fisheries, and, of course, our local environment. Being present at the concerts over the past two years has been a great way to connect with people in the community and let them know that there’s a co-op in their neighborhood where purchases of delicious, local, organic and sustainable produce, meat and seafood, and groceries actually help support the local economy’s small producers and farmers as well as local nonprofits.    

If you had to pick one place or person that represents the spirit of Food Front Cooperative Grocery who or where would it be, and why? (Response by:  Brie Hilliard, Ownership & Outreach Manager)

Food Front is akin to a small family farm, an oasis of local bounty within the city.  We live by a strong set of values and care for one another just as a family does.  We love serving our neighbors delicious made from-scratch meals and freshly picked fruits and veggies at our table!  Our hope is that everyone will walk out our doors at the end of the day feeling nourished and more vibrant than when they came in, and that they feel welcome to return whenever and as often as they like.

Tell us about how consumers are changing their perspective around social and environmental outcomes.  (Response by: Jessica Miller)

Being a cooperative with a commitment to bettering the environment and the communities within which we exist, we’ve always drawn like-minded consumers.  That said, our owners and customers have become more passionate about composting everything possible, recycling, bringing reusable bags to shop with, and supporting environmental nonprofits through register donations and actively signing petitions, etc. Food Front recently upgraded a lot of major appliances to be energy efficient and last year our Hillsdale store became — the first City of Portland Sustainability at Work Gold Certified business in Hillsdale!  Unsellable produce is left for farmers and customers to come in to use to feed their animals, helping the co-op to have little waste at the end of the day.  People are definitely caring more and taking more action to better our world.

How has Portland and Oregon been a good place to grow your business? ( Response by:  Holly Jarvis, General Manager)

Food Front has found Portland and Oregon to be great places to grow our retail food business over the past 42+ years. The people of Portland have been out-in-front of food related trends with their support for organic food production, local businesses and farmers’ markets, and their interest in food and culinary trends (e.g. raw and fermented foods, gluten-free and paleo diets, kale everything). They are informed and adventurous when it comes to eating and learning about where their food comes from. Oregon is a fertile state for a large variety of food crops, meat, seafood, vineyards, and wild crafted products. There is a lot of support and opportunity for small-scale growers and start-up food producers. This makes it easy for Food Front to be on the leading edge with our selections of locally grown and produced products.

It’s summer. What are you and other employees looking forward to in the dry months? (response by: Jessica Miller)

Local berries are definitely a favorite gem of summer for us at the co-op, locally grown tomatoes are right up there as well, especially those sun gold cherry tomatoes from Deep Roots Farm in Albany, OR.  Sitting out on the patio of our stores watching the neighborhood enjoying the sunshine, laughing and enjoying delicious food, the list could go on and on and on!