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News and updates from around the Ujima Ecosystem.

Ujima Welcomes Dorchester Food Cooperative to the Ujima Good Business Alliance!

June 22, 2021 -- Recently, the Dorchester Food Cooperative was invited to join the Ujima Good Business Alliance, which consists of an interview process that verifies that local organizations are operationalizing social justice through our minimum 36 Good Business Standards, for a second term.

We’re excited to welcome the organization to the Alliance, and share pride in their outstanding business practices. Some highlights include:

  • a cooperative business model

  • a community informed store design

  • and a commitment to bringing healthy food options to Dorchester, which spawned from a community discussion in 2012

Following their acceptance into the Ujima Good Business Alliance, Johnny Charles, Managing Director of the Ujima Fund, caught up with Robin Saunders and Lynn Murray, who are both board members of the Dorchester Food Cooperative, to learn more about their commitment to both food justice, upcoming storefront and goals in creating lasting community impact.

Johnny Charles: Can you talk about the need for a food and worker cooperative in Dorchester?

Robin: There’s a need for a food worker cooperative in Boston. As the state capital it is symbolic that Boston hosts a working cooperative, specifically a rich and diverse community such as Dorchester. Organizing here is more profound because of the diversity. We are so excited to be breaking ground after 10 years. For some this may be too long but for me that feels right on time. We’re moving at the speed of our community and at the speed of trust.

Lynn: I see food as much more; a tool and a practice. It’s our right! We deserve to feed and heal ourselves. Food is connected to destiny. I deserve to feed myself and be able to control what goes into that food. With our current Healthcare system, access to good food is preventative. We shouldn’t have to go far to gain food access for ourselves and our families. Beyond that it’s about community power and ownership.

JC: What are your thoughts on joining the Ujima Good Business Alliance?

Robin: I personally appreciate the Ujima standards. I love how it aligns with cooperative structures. Given the general cooperative principles (7), there’s a perfect match between us and Ujima. All 36 standards intersect with our work in creating local food security. Food is medicine, because of this I believe in my grandmother’s notion that to be working with local and regional farmers is about developing the soil, in turn develops broader community infrastructure. Do you have good dirt? Good dirt leads to better food. Better food leads to better health and better health leads to better families.

Lynn: The Ujima standards offer accountability, which I am very appreciative of. You can have all the intention in the world but it’s important that accountability is enforced and so we are excited that Ujima offers this.

JC: What are you most excited about in regards to joining the business alliance?

Robin: I’m looking forward to hearing directly from other organizations, specifically non-cooperatives, to get feedback and critique on how to run our business better. We see the alliance as a source for input that would allow us to see beyond our blinders while centering racial justice.

Lynn: Yes, we need to ensure that a racial justice lens stays in our business strategy. We center both race and equity in our work and are especially excited that it’s valued in the Ujima standards. Contrary to the cooperative space, we do not want a whitewashed history of our work and food. The standards offer solidarity support, value, and prepares us to grapple with tough conversation among ourselves in regards to implementation.

JC: Anything upcoming for the cooperative that you’d like to share?

Robin: Though we already attended, we just attended a conference focused on Black Ownership. It offered us better framing about cooperatives and its impact on gentrification. The substantive context offered at the conference allows us to better tell our history to best support our cooperative work. Secondly we’re excited to share that we are launching our Capital Campaign for our grocery store build out. This is our store, you can invest and own it! It’s a re-education for our community. ■



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