Introducing PCC’s new community nutrition program manager
By Rachel Tefft
This article was originally published in September 2019
Our community has grown and changed dramatically since 15 Seattle-area families founded PCC as a buying club in a neighborhood basement in 1953. This was a Seattle before the Seahawks, Starbucks, Nirvana or Amazon. Over the past 10 years alone our region has seen a population increase of more than 100,000 people and a dense city skyline that’s home to more construction cranes than any other U.S. city. A transformation has occurred, impacting the needs, the culture and the personality of the place we all call home, with all the complexities and paradox that change facilitates.
As PCC expanded from its grassroots beginnings to become the largest grocery co-op in the country, our neighborhoods have experienced a rapidly widening economic divide. The disparity has led to increased barriers to accessing healthy foods as well as rapid rates of displacement. With escalating numbers of unhoused people and growing economic disparity in our region, one out of nine individuals in Washington do not have enough to eat.
None of this is news to those of us who have seen and felt this shift. What I didn’t know, however, was that PCC, the co-op I had been a member of for years, had grown and changed as well, beyond what I saw as a customer. Community outreach and giving programs, inclusive human resources practices, kids summer camps and a unionized staff, are a few demonstrations of PCC’s commitment to stay grounded in its founding values and connected to neighbors who share a love for this beautiful region despite its challenges.
As a part of that work, I recently joined PCC as community nutrition program manager. It’s a new position for the co-op, and an unusual one for a grocery retailer.
As PCC has seen the increased inequities in our food system, the leadership and staff members knew they had to continue to listen, learn and innovate, to best support their whole community. The co-op has an increased focus on creative programming and intentional community partnerships, looking at barriers to access from a variety of angles.
Supporting food access has been a priority for decades. For instance, in the spirit that the co-op was founded on, PCC began a bulk buy program in 1989 in partnership with local food banks. The goal of this program was to create a platform for our food bank partners to choose a variety of bulk foods from one of our distributors that fit the needs of their community. Since the program’s inception, PCC and its members have seen how sharing resources, both time and money, has strengthened our communities, a concept that has become its foundation. The program has sustained for 30 years because of dedicated staff and passionate PCC shoppers.
While there is a need to support emergency food access, this alone will not address the inequity in our food system. As a registered dietitian with a background in community-driven approaches to food access, I look forward to supporting PCC’s efforts. I am humbled to have the privilege to carry on the work of the passionate and committed individuals who have come before me and worked in that understanding that our community does not stop at the store doors. The understanding that we, all of us, have the undeniable human right to have access to healthy, real, clean foods that tell the story of who we are and where we come from. The understanding that we all deserve our food system to be grounded in dignity and driven by equity.
Rachel Tefft, RD, is PCC’s community nutrition program manager. Watch for articles on PCC’s community programs and partners in future issues of the Sound Consumer.