Food co-op looking for new location

By Tim Shaunnessey

As The Dublin Food Co-op turns 30 this year, the organization is looking for a new home while battling to stay afloat and stay true to its founding principles of supporting organic foods, fair trade and locally produced vegetarian fare.

In 1983, before farmers markets, organic food and vegetarianism were mainstream, the co-op was a pioneering organization that provided food at low cost to its members and served as a hub for food activists.

But economic pressures and disagreement about the co-op’s direction has hamstrung the organization in recent years, leading some to say the co-op has not remained true to its founding values, according to some members.

A major issue the organization faces this year is its facility, located at 12 Newmarket, Dublin 8, said Pirooz Daneshmandi, chairman of the co-op.

The lease the co-op signed back in 2007 came with a hefty price — especially after the economy tanked — and the layout of the building makes loading and unloading products difficult.

“This place isn’t suited for us,” Daneshmandi said. “Ideally, we would like to have our own premises that would belong to us, and we could plan [and run it] exactly as we want.”

So the co-op is shopping around for a new location, with the eventual goal of owning a better-suited facility, he said.

The co-op has a new option up for consideration down the street at Brabazon Roe, Newmarket in Dublin 8.

No matter where the co-op ends up locating, some worry the organization is “in the community but not of it.”

David Moore, who helped with web editing and administration for the co-op between 2009 and 2011, said the organization has isolated itself from the community and abandoned the principles of a true cooperative.

“If you did a straw poll walking around the Liberties and asked even for directions to Dublin Food Co-op, asked [residents] what they knew about Dublin Food Co-op, you’d get a lot of blank faces,” Moore said. “I don’t think it ever really took any steps to engage with the area [or] to build a connection with its community.”

Daneshmandi said the co-op is staying true to its values as best it can, but he said the co-op isn’t as in touch with its neighborhood as he’d like. It’s not clear how many of the approximately 750 co-op members are Liberties residents.

“I’m sure we could improve our relationship with our locality,” he said. “Generally speaking, a lot of our members have been with us for many years, even prior to moving here. We have some work to do in that area still.”

Pauric Cannon, a founding member of the co-op, said the organization has done fine keeping to its core values. He would like to see Liberties residents be deeply involved with the co-op, and for it to serve as an example and inspiration.

There are plenty of voices with suggestions how to go about that. Larry Gordon, a member of the governing board for the co-op, said the objective now is to synthesize it all.

“Lots of people have got a vision,” he said. “We’re in the process of formulating a single vision.”

In March 2012, Moore co-founded a web site that he said serves to provide a platform for additional suggestions as to how the co-op can be improved. Many of his posts criticize the co-op, but he maintained it’s all with the best of intentions.

“The position I took with the web site is criticism,” he said, “but it’s constructive criticism; it’s criticism premised on the belief that the co-op can be better, that it’s fully capable of connecting with its neighborhood. It just needs to decide that’s something that matters.”

Tim Shaunnessey was part of a team of students from Columbia College Chicago who traveled to Ireland to report and write about the Liberties.


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