Each month, the Office of Civic & Community Engagement (OCCE) profiles a community partner to highlight the work they are doing in the community. This month, the OCCE is proud to feature Reverend Willard W. Bass, Jr., Co-Founder of the SHARE Food Cooperative and Peter Schlachte, AmeriCorps VISTA for SHARE.
SHARE, which stands for “Supplying Honest And Respectful Engagement,” is a faith-based Food and Program Supplier, formed to serve the diverse citizens of Winston-Salem. It provides wholesome-fresh food, to families in and around areas designated as food deserts, at a reasonable cost. In addition to food, SHARE is dedicated to providing nutrition education, coping-skills counseling, immigrant sustainability support, and local health/food equity policy support.
The SHARE Cooperative was developed in conjunction with The Freedom Tree at Institute for Dismantling Racism (IDR), a non-profit organization that seeks to educate, organize, and support communities and organizations in developing policies and procedures to create diverse and inclusive cultures.
After a year of planning and building its membership SHARE is reaching an important milestone, opening its first co-op store, Harvest Market, on June 1st, 2020 at 635 Peters Creek Parkway in Winston-Salem.
Could you explain the origin of SHARE, and how it impacts the Winston-Salem community?
Bass: SHARE was established with my fellow Co-Founder, Rev. Gary R. Williams, as a result of the work we were doing in the community around race, disparities, and systemic oppression. This work was mainly accomplished through hosting workshops on both the nation’s history and race education. We wanted to make a deeper impact, so we started looking for opportunities to engage more directly in the community. We found that food insecurity was a big issue in Winston-Salem, with 22 existing food deserts.
With this knowledge, we wanted to be more intentional in how we understood the community as it relates to addressing food disparities. We decided creating a cooperative (co-op) would be the best way to address this growing issue. A co-op is a one member, one vote, owner-operated store. In our research we found that in the 1900s, co-ops were a great way for individual communities, especially those considered to be rural, to organize and get needed resources (i.e. power, water, sewer) and infrastructure.
I am excited to say that we are targeted to open our first co-op store, Harvest Market on June 1st. There, SHARE will sell locally-sourced food from community gardens and farms. It has been through the help of partnerships with churches, nonprofit organizations, community members, and businesses that SHARE have been able to grow and increase its impact.
Many people may not fully understand the idea of a cooperative – can you provide a brief description and detail how membership in the SHARE Co-op works?
Schlachte: Right now we have about 400 members with SHARE. As a member, you get discounts when you shop at Harvest Market and you are recognized as a “member owner;” meaning you have an equal level of stake in SHARE and get to vote on future decisions of the co-op. This is our way of making sure everyone has a voice and equal power.
You can become a member by filling out the registration form on our website. Upon registration, members pay a one time fee of $100 but we have discounted membership for people on SNAP, elderly residents, and college students. We want to make sure our organization is inclusive.
SHARE stands for “Supplying Honest and Respectful Engagement”, can you explain what that phrase means to you?
Bass: One thing that we think is important is this idea of organizations both giving and sticking to their word, and being able to provide what they say they’re going to do. So through our motto, we want to model what it means to provide honest and respectful engagement by building unity, respecting people where they are, and creating a community space. Whether our engagement be professionally or socially, we want to make sure that it is honest and respectful.
Can you explain how SHARE goes about impacting the economy in Winston-Salem, particularly for those living in food deserts?
Bass: One thing that’s important to mention is that we will have 25 job openings for Harvest Market, which we expect to increase as we grow. These positions are targeted towards becoming livable wage jobs, and to decrease the rate of residents working two or three jobs to survive.
Additionally, we hope to increase economic empowerment as we develop further. Once we have the Harvest Market established and running, we want to expand our efforts to East Winston, where there is a high concentration of food deserts.
The SHARE Cooperative, is a recent endeavor with the Institute for Dismantling Racism – what do you believe has been the biggest impact in the co-ops first year? And what are you looking forward to in the next year?
Bass: Our biggest impact has been our ability to draw people from different sectors of life to the conversation addressing food insecurity and disparities. We are helping people connect with one another and make a change for the future.
I am most looking forward to the Harvest Market’s doors opening. Right now, we are in the final stages of construction, so it’s really exciting that we will have a physical location for residents and members to shop. Recently, we’ve been using our online service for members, where we are able to catalog their shopping habits and make sure our store is equipped with what they need.
If you had 30 seconds to tell someone about SHARE, what would you want them to know?
Schlachte: SHARE is focused on food justice and creating equity in Forsyth County. It provides a space where people have access to healthy and affordable food, and is a place where residents can build community and friendship with one another.
How can community members get involved with SHARE?
Bass: Our membership registration is open to all community members, as mentioned before, they can sign up online or in person at SHARE (603 Peters Creek Parkway, Winston-Salem). We have a newsletter that community members can subscribe to, which will have updates on the organization and upcoming events; you don’t have to be a SHARE member to receive the newsletter. We also encourage residents to stop by SHARE for a chance to talk and learn more.
Are there any upcoming events with SHARE that you would like the community to know about?
Bass: On February 28th and 29th, we are hosting a two-day workshop called Transforming to Social Justice Citizenship, which provides a space for community members to engage in discussion and training around anti-racism and social justice citizenship. This event will be held at the SHARE Cooperative location. Additionally, on the third Thursday of every month, we have workshops on topics dealing with race, such as difficult conversations or privilege. These discussions are also held at the SHARE location.
In March we will be having pop-up food markets in the parking lot outside of Harvest Market. We are still finalizing those dates, but please make sure to check our calendar.
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