Knowledge Swap Re-cap


Chicago Market is truly a vibrant, knowledgeable community.

So, as part of the co-op's Health & Wellness theme, Chicago Market hosted a Knowledge Swap earlier this month at the beautiful Women's Health Center of Swedish Covenant Hospital. The idea behind the event was two-fold: to provide an opportunity for Chicago Market Owners to share their passions with the community and to learn several new health & wellness-related skills. 

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Chicago Market's Evolved Strategic Vision

Chicago Market's volunteer Board of Directors spent a Saturday together this fall, exploring our co-op's strategic vision. We began a day-long session on the differentiating features and services that will make our physical space special (Knowledgeable and friendly local staff! Kids activities! Programming, shared kitchen, community space! Owner-curated playlists!?) and then moved into conversation about how our values would be embodied in the store.

We were inspired by a TED Talk by Simon Sinek on "your why," which helped us revisit why bringing a food co-op to the north side is so important to so many people.

As we progressed, we realized there are themes we've always recognized as the core of a co-op community, but not been declarative in writing about. For example, from the beginning we've identified ourselves as an honest food community, focused on local and sustainable -- but what about  Ownership, the idea that we are all responsible for the success and health of our community business? How do we acknowledge other strategic values, such as relationships, accountability, and even the joy we feel in sharing connection and food experiences with one another?

An Evolved Strategic Foundation and its practical implications

Over and over, we've heard from volunteers and Owners that their personal reasons for joining Chicago Market are grounded in building and connecting with a community first and foremost -- and that having access to local, sustainable food is an important  shared idea we advocate and work toward, together. So, we took the opportunity to fine-tune our mission/vision to incorporate our vales and to put a finer, more declarative point on our purpose:  We are building a better food community. This is what we're aiming for, what unites us and gives us shape as an organization.

A small team worked to refine and document these ideas into an evolved Mission, Purpose, Vision and Values Statement. The statement was recently presented to the full Board, and adopted. It's an evolution, not a revolution of the Mission and Vision established in our early foundation.

Here's the full statement: Chicago Market's Mission and Purpose, Vision and Values.

Like our Purchasing Values, this core strategic foundation drives our actions, behavior and practical decision-making as an organization. For instance, it will guide the policy governance we provide to our General Manager; will guide hiring criteria for employees; and will inspire and prioritize store architecture, design and features.

Conclusion: Powered by Our Owners

We believe that Chicago Market is more than just a grocery store. We are a powerful community made up of passionate and diverse members who share a connection with each other, our culture and our food. We are building something special together, and like any business, it's taking hard work to get there but we believe the result and rewards make it worth such a huge effort!

We welcome your thoughts and as importantly, your engagement. We hope you'll join us at future Board meetings, get involved in committees, volunteer on projects or at events, or talk to your own friends and neighbors about joining Chicago Market. This important strategic work has inspired our teams, and we have a lot in store to help us grow in 2017. A co-op's timeline and success are dependent on Ownership growth, site selection and funding coming together in tandem. Your participation will make our better food community a reality:  local, sustainable and yours.

Note: Many thanks to Jen Vest (Owner #532), Linn Austin (Owner #633), Lizzy Appleby (Owner # 518) and Mark Ahlheim (Owner #172) for their leadership and contributions, as well as Board President and Owner #3 Grant Kessler for planning the offsite that kicked off this process.

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Chicago Market's Mission and Purpose, Vision and Values

Adopted by Chicago Market's Board of Directors, February 2017 (Values revised February 2023). Click here for background on this important strategic work.




We are building a better food community. Powered by our Owners, we create and strengthen local food connections that are honest, accessible, educational, and inspiring. We are a cooperative grocery store—but more than that, we're a gathering place and vibrant community resource.



A better food community—local, sustainable, connected.



Local. Sustainable. Yours.



We value: Relationships, Ownership, Sustainability, Justice, Accountability, and Joy.


Relationships. Relationships are the core of our food community. We cultivate partnerships and community among our Owners, shoppers, vendors, local businesses and organizations, chefs, restaurants, our city, and our neighborhood. Further, we regard our farmers, manufacturers, producers, and employees as valued members of our community.


Ownership. Democratically led by our Owners, Chicago Market's success depends on the participation of each member of our community through Board and committee work, volunteer engagement, participating in the annual Owners meeting, and electing our Board. Founded on and operating by the core cooperative values and principles, we provide our community voice to build a democratic and equitable food community that has the power to change the local food landscape.


Sustainability. We support and promote sustainable agriculture, careful resource use, and environmental and economic sustainability. We incorporate these principles in everything we do, including our Purchasing Values, store design, and operations. We want to make buying decisions that are both sustainable for the co-op but also for the suppliers and employees with whom we work.


Justice. Our Co-op advances personal, structural, and systemic justice for all our stakeholders. We recognize that many forms of discrimination and oppression exist and harm members of the communities we serve. As a food co-op created by and for the community, we are rooted in the pursuit of inclusivity and fostering a sense of belonging for everyone.


Accountability. Chicago Market is accountable to our Owners, employees, vendors, community, and environment. We commit to fair labor standards, honest and financially responsible business practices, transparent communication, and continual improvement based on our community's feedback. We provide transparent information about who produced your food and how it was produced, so you can decide what you feed yourself and your family.


Joy. We share a passion for connecting with others over food that makes us feel great. Our facilities, events, and programs inspire and educate; they celebrate and incubate local food producers and new ideas. Chicago Market is a joyous place to shop and work and to gather in community.



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Public Board Minutes for Feb. 22, 2017

Present: Grant, Bill, Greg, Linn, Dan, Kelly, Mike, Anthony, Larry, Emily, Jen, Karen
Absent: Heather
Notes: Karen
Guests: Dan Becco; Lee Herman; Andrew Bell; Annette Mambuca (potluck dinner only) 
The Board hosted a potluck dinner for an hour prior to our meeting this month; Owners and some prospective Owners joined us for conversation and delicious food and were then invited to stay for the session. 
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Chicago Market Celebrates Health & Wellness


We're celebrating health and wellness all this month with good-for-you events that fit with the vision of your community-focused grocery store.

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Chicago Market Has Open Seats On The Board of Directors

Chicago Market's Board of Directors is made up entirely of volunteers. That means that, occasionally, other obligations get in the way of Chicago Market, and individuals need to step down from the Board before the end of their term. It is with gratitude (and a little sadness) that we acknowledge the departure of Board Members Mark Ahlheim and Lizzy Appleby.  

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January 2017 Board Meeting Minutes

Public Board Minutes for 1/25/17

Chicago Market Public Board Meeting
7 p.m.
Cafe Chien
Present: Mike, Larry, Emily, Jen, Grant, Heather, Bill, Linn
Absent: Karen, Anthony, Kelly, Greg, Dan
Guests: Lee, Dana
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2016 End of Year Note


Dear Friends,

Last year at this time, I shared a reflection about stories, and how becoming part of a food co-op makes you more than the follower of a story -- it makes you a part of it, one of the heroes.

We were coming to the end of a challenging year in Chicago -- a tough election (remember when the mayoral election was the big political debate?), concerns about violence, racism, education, finances -- and a general feeling that the city wasn't pulling together as one. The City of Big Shoulders felt like it was...shrugging. 

I shared my belief that real change happens through building community, block by block, neighbor by neighbor, table by table. This is what co-ops do, and they do it with a model that works.*  

As 2016 comes to a close and we've moved on the national level from shrugging to some kind of convulsing, I come back to these words and realize they're more true now than ever. When the storms outside chase us in, when the conversation turns to shouting instead of listening, when we start to feel we've lost touch with a shared purpose and respect for those who think differently than we do...then it's time to start connecting.

The greatest gift that being an Owner of Chicago Market has brought me is this gift of new connections. Sure, I had friends and family and neighbors before joining the co-op -- you do, too -- but creating positive change means growing beyond our bubbles.

So now I'm connected to Grant. He's a photographer. He's a blues player. He's a kayaker. He knows a lot about farms. And I'm connected to Lisa, who derbies. And Maria, who reads. And Kelly who cooks, and Dan who bikes and Lee who folk-musics and Annette who writes and Heather who tiki-bars and Linn who glöggs and Liat who preserves and Bill who builds. 

These connections are already adding joy to all our lives. We're having more fun, doing things we care about, together. We're eating and cooking great food together. And we're building community with a shared purpose: we're going to open a food co-operative here that helps farmers grow, helps families live healthy lives in a healthy world, helps our local economy thrive, and helps us keep connecting with each other.

It's been a year of learning that connections -- who grows our food, who sells it, who shops with us, rides the bus with us, shovels the snow with us, plays with us, prays with us, votes with us, who stubbornly hangs in there loving Chicago and loving America and loving the world with us, despite it all -- well, those connections are what matters.

Being part of a co-op means Committing to Connecting. It's democracy the way it *really* works, where we have shared values but different ideas and needs and we get to know each other, talk, listen, organize to work all that out so we can live those values anyhow. There's no "corporations are people," and no "fake news." No gerrymandering, filibustering or disenfranchising. There's just 1 person, 1 vote and 1+1+1+1+1+...expanding our circle and practicing democracy, trust and optimism. We work these muscles and we know we're gonna build this thing that matters, together. And then we're gonna have a place to grow from and build other things that matter. 

We need you to join us. Landlords and banks tell us that we need a bigger Owner base to ensure our best site deal and our financial future. You can become a lifetime Founding Owner for only $250 (or even a $25/month installment plan). You can join us here online. Or send us an email

There are tangible benefits, of course. And there are also so many joyful, meaningful connections.   

Through the end of this year, we are campaigning for 50 new Owners and if we hit our goal, we'll give away gifts from another friendly co-op: an REI Gift Card ($50 value) and an REI co-op membership ($20 value). Come co-operate with us and get really good at democracy. Join our co-op

I wish us all light, love and local for the holiday season!

Karen Jacobs, Board of Directors


*Food co-ops spend more revenues locally, buy more products locally, buy more organic produce, recycle more plastic, and create more jobs than conventional grocers. For every $1,000 spent at a food co-op, $1,606 goes to the local economy; for every $1 million in sales, 9.3 jobs are created (Yes! Magazine, 2013). 

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The Future of Food

Chicago Market Owner #148 and writer Annette Mambuca joined  food writers, policy wonks, activists, culinary professionals and everyday foodies at a one-day conference on "The Future of Food," sponsored by Edible magazine this October. She found a few other Chicago Market Owners there, too! Here's her terrific summary of what they learned.

So what does the future hold?

If you’re a Chicago Market Owner, the answer is clear. Sustainable. Local. Transparently sourced. Community-minded. Equitable. Delicious (natch!).

Our co-op may be well on the way to amending some local ills, but nationally and globally there are still some fairly formidable forces to overcome.




* Americans waste 40% of food grown and purchased, yet one in seven Americans visit a food bank weekly

* 1 in 8 people worldwide do not get enough food

* 90% of our table fish have been taken out of the ocean and 40% of fish caught are wasted (“accidentally” caught and then tossed by commercial operations)

* Lobbyists touting less-food-friendly policies wield tremendous political power

* Technology, while inherently good, has advantaged and advanced multinational food operations and global distribution channels

* Human labor and animal welfare abuses abound 

As the day’s speakers testified, our individual food habits and decisions matter decisively, both in terms of helping the planet, as well as sharing our perspective and knowledge with unlike-minded folks in our local sphere of influence. And of course, the future of food is also reliant on the government policies and corporate decisions our actions and activism help to drive.

Keynoter Katherine Miller, Director of the Chef Action Network, a Food Policy Advocacy program of the James Beard Foundation opened the meeting with another potent reminder: “Food is essential to life, but it is also essential to economies. Local food sales totaled an estimate of $6.1 billion in 2012. In some places, local demand is outstripping our ability to provide it in a local way.”

That fact prompts an apt comment from Chicago Market's Board President and Owner #3, Grant Kessler.

“If you’re concerned about the future of food and the planet…if you want to make and help others make better environmental decisions…if you want to keep good jobs and money in our community…joining Chicago Market is the opportunity for you and all of us to make a positive contribution to the future right here in Chicago.”

As important as local is to the conversation, systemic change means we need corporations and industry at the table as well. Given their scope, they hold serious keys to sustainably feeding the 9.7 billion people that will be on the planet in 2050.

Good things are happening in that regard. As reported in the New York Times, McDonald’s decision to phase out the use of eggs housed in cages – partly the result of consumer pressure – has multiple downstream implications. Those include several states enacting regulations on how laying hens are kept, fast-food rivals and other food suppliers considering similar changes and the eventual reduction in the price of cage-free eggs sold to consumers.

Chicago Market Owner #619 and CEO of Next Bites Eloise Karlatiras, who was part of the panel discussion, “In Pursuit of Protein,” believes that individual efforts can prod large-scale change.

“I think millennials will play a huge role in imagining and contributing to a new domestic economy that supports healthy, sustainable and equitable food production,” she says.

“People may think they have little control over the direction of our food system. But humans have always sought out innovative answers to complex questions. Together, we can gently shift the way we connect with food and the ways in which it is grown and raised.”

The day ended with a wine tasting by sustainable vintner Christopher Silva from St. Francis Winery, so it seems fitting to end this article with a toast to “the future of food.”


Looking for more about "The Future of Food"? Check out these other organizations, articles and books featured at the conference.
Telling our Stories
Edible Communities Publications
Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky
Life of a Strawberry
Cage-free eggs
Policy advocacy
James Beard Foundation Chef’s Book Camp for Policy & Change
Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Food Democracy Now
St. Francis Winery
Food-Conscious Businesses, Activists and Venture Capitalists
Eloise Karlatiras, CEO, Next Bites
Bruce Sherman, Chef, North Pond
S2G Ventures
Beyond Meat: The Future of Protein
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December 2016 Board Meeting Minutes

Public Board Minutes for 12/14/16

Present: Anthony, Dan, Grant, Lizzy, Mark (left at 8pm), Emily, Jen, Greg, Larry
Absent: Heather, Karen, Kelly, Mike, Bill, Linn
Guest: Lee Herman
Location: Cafe Chien
Notes: Lizzy
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