Guest post by Nate Furler, Marketing and Outreach Manager
Oneota Community Food Coop
Providing educational opportunities has always been important to the Oneota Coop. When we moved to the current building at 312 West Water Street, space was set aside to hold classes in the basement of the Co-op building. This classroom space was a much needed improvement as the Co-op did not previously have a kitchen classroom or designated general classroom either.
Earlier this year (2014) the Co-op Board of Directors held strategic planning sessions in an effort to provide guidance for the Co-op and its staff. What emerged at the top of the list were two topics the Co-op knows very well – local foods and educational offerings. More specifically, these initiatives were spelled out as increasing the sales of local foods at the Co-op and increasing educational offerings.
The trend had already been recognized as Co-op classes had seen a (roughly) 200% increase in registrations, yearly, for the past three years. We have a staff member, Johanna Bergan, who excels in the position of Education and Outreach Coordinator – focusing her time entirely on all things “education” at the Co-op. She makes amazing things happen in kitchen spaces not only at the Co-op, but also at Luther College, local churches and anywhere people want Co-op education to go.
It has been talked about for several years that the “American” way of cooking has dramatically changed in roughly one generation. Kurt Friese discusses this a bit more in his article, “Occupy Your Kitchen,” in this publication. We’ve gone from scratch cooking to dump, heat and eat. This isn’t to say that ready-to-eat meals don’t have their occasional place in the home kitchen just as eating out has its place in the grand scheme of the roughly 1,092 meals the average person eats in a year. However, class participation has illustrated to us here at the Co-op that people are ready to learn (sometimes re-learn) the art of cooking whole, healthy, from-scratch meals – be it for one, two, three or more.
We are beyond excited to introduce the next phase of educational opportunities at the Co-op. Not so much in content as in the facility in which we will be able to provide these educational offerings. ,As you likely know, the Co-op is slated to purchase the building directly to the east of the current store – also referred to as the Cutting building. Co-op ownership of the building will begin January 1, 2015. However, the Co-op is already renting a portion of the building, and the remodeling of half of the street level space began in July of this year. The completed classroom space will be unveiled the beginning of September.
The new Co-op Kitchen Classroom is three times the size of the previous basement classroom. It features its own fridge and freezer, a teaching island with an induction cooktop, a double wall oven, portable induction burners and enough tables and equipment to easily teach a hands-on cooking class to a group of 24 or enough space to hold a lecture for roughly 40. Excited doesn’t even begin to describe what the staff, the membership, and (we hope) the community feel as we undergo this classroom transformation.
Johanna has put together great classes this fall for adults and kids alike. You can check them out on pages 6-8 in this publication as well as online at www.oneotacoop.com. Additionally, you can sign up and pay for classes on our website – 24 hours a day.
We hope you find this as exciting as we do! What Co-op class are you going to attend? Do you have suggestions for classes? Perhaps you have a group that wants to learn about something in particular? We are game for that. Please send your ideas, suggestions and requests to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Co-op at 563-382-4666. We always love to hear from you.