PCC Board of trustees
Sound Consumer January 2020
PCC’s board engagement meeting report
The price of organic oats. The ongoing quest for a compostable adhesive label. The needs of a growing region.
Those were some of the issues discussed at the latest PCC board engagement meeting, where PCC members are invited to ask questions, offer input, and learn about business highlights and new initiatives from members of PCC’s board of trustees and management team.
“We’ve tried different ways to connect with members and this is admittedly kind of an experiment,” trustee Ben Klasky said at the October meeting at the Burien PCC, which he attended with trustee Cindy Bolton.
So far, it seems to be working.
The evening included a presentation from Rachel Tefft, PCC’s new community nutrition program manager. She talked about PCC’s food bank donation program, where food banks each choose $2,000 per month in bulk foods purchased through PCC’s wholesale discount. One of Tefft’s goals is figuring out how to tailor the program to each community’s need, and how PCC can help fill existing gaps. For instance, healthy cooking oils are important to every culture, but not common in traditional food bank donation programs—adding them could be a real benefit.
One member at the meeting asked whether food banks seek out organic products. It’s a complicated question. While PCC supports access to organics for everyone, some food bank managers fear their dollars won’t stretch as far if they choose organic products—the same budgeting debate that takes place in many households. (See Tefft’s article here.)
Brenna Davis, PCC’s vice president of social and environmental responsibility, told the group about her department’s work, including upholding co-op standards and progressing on initiatives such as eliminating all plastics in the deli by 2022.
“We know the needs in the Puget Sound region are just growing, and as we grow as a co-op, we want to grow our impact,” Davis said.
Attendees debated PCC’s member benefits, decisions like eliminating a printed sales flyer (to save both printing costs and paper), and the tension between food prices and other co-op responsibilities and requirements.
Organic oats have gone up from $1.49 to $1.99 per pound, noted longtime member Dave Luxem. “I almost feel like PCC owes us an explanation.”
The answer is complicated, as PCC laid out in a recent Sound Consumer letter. Heather Snavely, vice president of marketing, said in this specific example, the oat price reflects increased costs from our supplier. Such increases are sometimes absorbed, but not always. More generally, prices are influenced by other factors, too. The co-op prioritizes organic and non-GMO products, which by nature cost more. It has a unionized staff, “and we’re really proud of it.” As a co-op, a portion of profits is returned to members and to the community. And we prioritize partnerships with small farmers and family-owned farms, such as Pure Eire, which produces PCC’s grass-fed yogurt.
“They take the greatest care of their cows,” Snavely said, and it costs a farmer more money to do it that way. PCC has helped to reduce the cost we pass on to the consumer by offering the yogurt through our private label program.
Sharon Bredeson, another longtime member, said she appreciated that part of the retail cost reflects the work that’s being done to carry items that meet co-op standards, along with employee pay.
Member Marie Jones, a PCC shopper since the 1990s, was glad to have a branch in Burien, but asked whether the co-op stocks stores any differently based on shopper demographics. Board members said no, that every PCC has the same core products, though newer stores (including Burien) are larger than the original branches and sometimes include new features. Also, Snavely noted, the new West Seattle store, which has the co-op’s largest bulk bin selection, is testing out supplies of new non-food bulk items like bulk laundry detergent.
“If it does well there, we will roll it out elsewhere.”
PCC board meeting report
The Board of Trustees met on Oct. 30, 2019. Management provided an update on the third quarter. The Board heard reports from its Audit and Finance, Governance and Membership and Management Development & Compensation Committees. CEO Cate Hardy reported on financials and co-op-wide projects and initiatives. The Board discussed planning for its retreat in February, the 2020 budget and operating plan, a change in membership policies related to California residents as a result of new California privacy laws and other business matters.
The next regular Board meeting is scheduled for May 14, 2020.
Members always are welcome to communicate with the PCC Board of Trustees by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by mailing the co-op office at 3131 Elliott Ave., Suite 500, Seattle, WA 98121.