FY 2020 Annual Report
Board President’s Letter
What a year it has been! As I reflect on the past year, I am struck by the feeling that collectively we have navigated many years’ worth of challenges and triumphs in just twelve months. The “year” that we are reporting on in this Annual Report is our fiscal year, which began in July 2019. It’s hard to believe that the defining factor of the year for the Co-op - the Covid-19 pandemic - arrived more than halfway through the year. It’s important for us to take stock of the full year, however, without diminishing the sheer magnitude of how our Co-op and our community has been impacted by the pandemic.
In March, at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Co-op’s role as a community resource became all the more evident as an essential business, remaining open as the rest of the community was instructed to stay home and stay safe. As Board Members, we were in awe of the ways in which the Co-op was able to provide for the community during the early days of the pandemic, exemplifying the Co-op principle of Concern for Community. We applauded the work of Prepared Foods staff who shifted their work to providing meals for the community through a partnership with the City of Burlington, the Grocery staff who made sure we had shelves stocked despite product shortages and delivery delays, and every one of our staff members who helped provide for their neighbors in ways they never imagined.
Our staff of over 300 exemplified the cooperative spirit during this time and we are grateful for the many ways they showed up for all of us this year. We’re also grateful for our Members who shared feedback, ideas, and suggestions during a time of critical change. At a time when more people are focusing on staying local, the value of member-ownership and the opportunity to have a voice in your community has become all the more evident.
As we look to the year ahead, our practices continue to evolve with the latest guidance, and I am so proud of our Co-op for continuing to prioritize safety and implement measures that exceed the state’s guidelines. This work, like much of our work, is not contained to a single fiscal year, and I know that we will keep our diligence and our standards high as we continue forward.
Thank you for being a part of our Co-op and this cooperative journey! Together, let us continue to prioritize our entire community’s safety, health, and vibrancy - and to learn and grow from the challenges and the triumphs of the year.
General Manager’s Letter
As we near the end of 2020 and reflect on our fiscal year in this annual report, I am reminded of the many ways that the spirit of cooperation was on display over these past many months. There’s no question that 2020, and the final months of our fiscal year (March through June) brought their fair share of challenges. When the coronavirus pandemic drastically altered all of our lives in March of 2020, we saw our community and especially our staff rally to the moment and provide for their neighbors. From coordinating food donations to working with the city on meal distribution, implementing safety measures and navigating supply chain shortages, launching a curbside program and enhancing delivery capacity, our staff worked together to ensure everyone in our community had access to resources.
This emphasis on providing for the community is not a new focus for the Co-op, but one that became all the more evident during the second half of our fiscal year.
Earlier in our fiscal year, we completed an extended Union negotiation that concluded in a three-year contract, held our Annual Member Meeting at the ECHO Leahy Center, hosted our Annual COTS Tree Sale, distributed funding to our Co-op Seedling Grantees, and more. But the year brought challenges even before the onset of the pandemic with water boil alerts and advisories that led to the closing of the Co-op on two separate occasions during our fiscal year.
Despite the obstacles that these closings posed, I remain proud of the swift action that our leadership team took to prioritize community safety. In retrospect, those instances prepared us well for the many tough decisions we would make later in the year with the onset of Covid-19. Some of the over 30 operational adjustments we made in response to the state of emergency declaration in March included transitioning to pre-packaged items in Bulk and Prepared foods, installing plexiglass barriers at the registers, limiting capacity, mandating face coverings for staff and customers, and more.
As we look to the year ahead, I am proud of the ways we have adapted to changing realities, consistently prioritizing safety and remaining accessible to all with the expansion of our curbside and delivery program and our continued cautious approach. We’re also proud that we’ve maintained over 300 jobs in the community throughout the pandemic despite declining sales and unforeseen challenges, offering an appreciation bonus to our staff for almost 10 months of the year (spanning two fiscal years).
I am deeply grateful for all the people who choose to work at our Co-op and for you, our Members and your dedication to the Co-op that allows us to continue to serve the broader community.
Thank you all for your continued support and we look forward to serving you, our Members, customers and broader community in the year ahead.