Meaghan Diffenderfer

Why would you like to serve on the City Market Board? What excites you about becoming a Board Member?

When I chose to apply for employment at City Market, I was most excited to work at an organization that aligned with my morals — a place that values food security, community, and justice at the core of its mission. While my day-to-day work contributes to this mission, the opportunity to sit on the Board is a chance to incorporate the Co-op Global Ends into the work I do even more directly. I value leadership that turns to and includes the voices of impacted individuals when making decisions, and would be honored to be a liaison for the employee-sector of our greater co-op community. I’m excited for the chance to continue to see a more holistic view of the co-op, and lend my time and perspective from the sales floor to the conversations that will eventually impact employees. This past year, full of turbulence, has shown that cooperation and community are what hold societies together, and I think our co-op continues to be an integral part of that for Burlington. To serve on the board is a chance to deepen my connection with this beloved community, continue to study and participate in co-operative structures, and most importantly, serve my community.

Please describe any professional skills you have that will help you to be an effective Board Member. How would you help the Board to balance the business needs of a $50 million business with the need to meet our Global Ends as a community-owned cooperative?

As a member of our Finance Department, I am already familiar with the day-to-day functions of our budget. I would be able to enter the conversation with a background of how the co-op spends its budget, and where we need to prioritize budgeting. My time on the Saint Michael’s College Student Association Executive Board involved assisting in budgeting and balancing a many hundred thousand dollar budget; acknowledging that the Co-op functions on a much larger scale, this past experience will be transferable to my time on the Board.

I have a background in political science that has taught me to look at things systemically and historically, starting from the big picture and narrowing in, which is essential when looking at current policies that are in place. If we find that any are no longer serving the co-op as they once were intended to, this practice will be vital in helping transform them to fit our new times and challenges, which have certainly changed since the co-op’s founding, and especially over the last year.

Describe your prior involvement with community organizations and/or cooperatives. What did you learn from these experiences?

I recently completed a Fellowship with New Leaders Council, which granted me insight on topics such as fundraising, coalition building, and communications, which will all be applicable to my time as a Board member. I have been an active member of several local political campaigns, which through canvassing and phone banking have taught me the importance of concise, clear communication. I have also been a part of several public health advocacy groups, who have directed me on how to be creative when funding falls short, and most of all encouraged me to stand up for what I believe in. All of my community involvement has shown me the importance of intersectionality, looking at specific issues in conjunction with other similar - or often, very different - issues that can grant us insight on the best path forward from any problem.

What opportunities and challenges do you see in the future of City Market?

City Market, like all businesses, is facing the challenges of operating through COVID-19. Having recently expanded to a second store, there will be financial stress and tension as an outcome of the pandemic that the co-op will have to navigate. An additional challenge I have seen and been personally asked about is transparency around co-op wages of the entire staff. I think that this will be a discussion for the board to consider in order to fully address member-owner concerns.

I see opportunities for the co-op to continue to be a progressive leader in the grocery industry. We have the benefit of placement in a community who wants nothing more than the co-op to succeed, and who will encourage us as a Board to make choices that will benefit our whole co-op community, from the lowest paid employee and lower-income shoppers to our largest community loan givers. In my vision, I would love to see the co-op continue to dedicate itself to food equity (including examining how to most ethically source products while retaining affordable options for consumers) and expand classes beyond the kitchen to examine issues and foster conversations around racism, classism, and sexism in the global food industry.

Click here to see Meaghan's resume