Megan White discovered her passion for food activism after hiking the Appalachian Trail. A network of hosts helps hikers along their way by providing food, housing or other resources. For White, one of these places was a small, environmentally driven farm in Sheffield, Massachusetts. She volunteered there for a week and ended up going back for an internship. Since then, White has been sticking up for the little guy by bringing products from local farms to downtown Spokane's Main Market and supporting other community-driven food projects.
1. People Want Meals
White says she has seen more of a demand for complete or almost-complete meals. This is especially challenging for food co-ops trying to compete with grocery stores and restaurants at the same time. "People want easy meals that maybe don't require a ton of from-scratch cooking, but they still want it to be healthy," White says.
2. The Dr. Oz Effect
Chia seeds came and went, but kombucha has stuck around for a while. White has to keep her finger on the pulse of all the latest health crazes. She says many of Main Market's customers are deep into the health food scene, so they're always seeking out the newest products. Sometimes a product picks up steam with the help of a celebrity endorsement; that's the Dr. Oz Effect. The best way to keep up with trends, White says, is to listen: "Usually the customers let us know about them pretty quick."
3. Keeping it Honest
The grocery giants are mimicking food co-ops by stressing their local and organic selections. "I would like to see a little bit more accountability with those marketing claims," White says. Main Market connects with local producers directly and even brings them in for workshops. Nutritionists often guide cooking workshops, giving customers a better understanding of the food they make and eat. White says she hopes to provoke people to think more critically about the groceries they buy.