I was just having this conversation on Twitter about food and ethical food and blah blah and was reminded about something that was a HUGE part of my life as a kid that I rarely think about now because it is such a product of a bygone era. Food co-ops.
I mean, there still ARE food co-ops, I think my mom still belongs to one, but the way they are run has certainly changed as communication technology has improved, and now grocery stores have a lot of healthy food so I've never felt the need to belong to one. But when I was a wee little thing, my mom ran an organic food co-op so we could get healthy food (produce and dry goods). She used to get a list of what was available each month and how much it cost (this was probably on the phone, I guess) and because this was before the internet, of course, she would have to call every person in the co-op and read them the list and figure out how much everyone wanted to try to fill a case. Sometimes it might be like, there are 12 packs of strawberries in a case and people only want 6 packs of strawberries but my mom really wanted them so we would have a TON of strawberries. Or whatever it was. Other times maybe we just couldn't get the strawberries. After she figured it all out, she'd call back and place the order.
I remember when she got a fax machine to make some of this easier, at least she could get the list via fax and send it back, and some of the other co-op members may have had fax machine access so she wouldn't have to spend ages with THEM on the phone anyway.
Then we would have to get the food off the truck. It was a big semi that sometimes we had to meet in a parking lot early on, and then later it would come to our driveway. (We lived on dirt roads so I assume it had something to do with road accessibility...many of the roads were later paved.) The schedules might change, sometimes we had trucks coming before sunup and other times in the evening. But when it came, the garage would be FULL of produce boxes that had to be distributed. All these other women would come and be weighing and counting and dividing produce for hours while we kids ran around and played. I recall the excitement of my friends coming over on a cold winter night, running around in the woods and blowing puffs of visible breath (a rare thing in Florida) while the food was divided. Sometimes things we were excited for didn't come. You might have to wait another month, or maybe you'd just never get to have them. But it was a big social event, of a rather charmingly old-fashioned "women joining and working for the good of the community" nature.
My memories fail me a bit but at many points we had two co-ops going, one for produce and one for dry goods, and sometimes other women would take over the job of one or the other so we might go to someone else's house. The dry goods one was always exciting because you might get things like natural spritzers or cheese puffs!
Then of course, that was a lot of our food for the month, so we had to make sure we ate the fragile stuff first, and some always got thrown away, but my mom was good at making do with things.
As a kid it was just a part of life; I didn't think about it much. All I knew was, my mom spent days on the phone sometimes, semis backed into our driveway at 6 am, sometimes I helped count out zucchinis or whatever, usually I was just running around with my friends while all this went on, and then I enjoyed the food. The apples that came off those trucks were so good and crisp that I'm sure I was as spoiled for apples as any kid in Washington state. Potatoes, too, the big fall russets with their hearty skins, the rich golden Yellowfin and Yukon Gold and a couple times even nutty purple potatoes which I wasn't to see again for years. Summer berries. Big jugs of apple juice. When I went to second grade, the only year I wasn't homeschooled, I was surprised (as with SO many other things: I was baffled that most 7 year olds didn't know about homeopathic medicine) that other kids didn't get their food from trucks and had never seen blue corn chips in their life.
Sometimes I forget what a hippie kid I was, but I certainly haven't forgotten how good fresh organic apples taste, so it's no wonder I grew up a foodie who gets simultaneously stressed (because so much food is bad for people and/or planet) and excited (because you never know what you might find, like my recent haul of clearance coconut milk ice cream!) by grocery stores...