The Park Slope Food Coop Has an Apathy Problem

The Park Slope Food Coop is facing what may be the most troubling problem in their 39-year history: apathy.

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The Park Slope Food Coop, always good for a laugh about yuppie-hippie culture and over-the-top political correctness, is facing what may be the most troubling problem in their 39-year history. We're actually not talking about the much-chronicled vote that's scheduled to take place Tuesday -- the vote on whether or not Coop members want to take a vote on whether foods from Israel should be boycotted. Because although Reuters' Chadwick Matlin attended a recent members meeting and tweeted an array of the sentiments we've come to expect and love from the Coop (mentions of "fascist food" and all), The New York TimesKirk Semple points out Friday that those types of feelings may actually be confined to the minority of the 16,000 Coop members. The rest of them, it appears, don't really care, and just want to get their groceries and get out of there. They are those most un-Coop of words: apathetic. Self-interested. Also, tired and maybe hungry, though only in the most well-fed on whole grains and fresh veggies sort of way.

Semple explains that while there are parties on both sides of the debate who have been active and even litigious, "above all, many people seem uninterested in, or even annoyed by, all the arguing." Apparently, the Coop is no longer the countercultural hotbed we know and love. It's now just another neighborhood institution, "as conventional as children’s soccer leagues on Saturday morning." What was once a sparring ground for passions and convictions is now, apparently, a plain old boring grocery store:

As one co-op member, an Internet entrepreneur, put it, “A lot of people couldn’t care less about the progressive stuff.” (He asked that his name not be published because he did not want to wade publicly into the debate.)

And while some do care deeply about the boycott and are apparently still driven by that old-school co-op vibe of making the world a better place, there are others who just want to shop for their "organic produce, artisan cheese and fair-trade coffee" and call it a day. Semple writes, "Outside the co-op the other night, activists from both sides of the debate tried to buttonhole members, only to be ignored by most." Other members denied having joined for anything more than just the food:

As the couple carried their purchases to their car, [Ron]. Eugenio, a case manager at an intellectual property law firm, and [Jenny] Eugenio, an admissions director at a private school in Manhattan, said they joined the co-op for the healthy, inexpensive food. “It’s not to make a political statement,” Mr. Eugenio said.

Can it really even be a Coop, then? Maybe we should just start calling it a Whole Foods. Or worse...a Starbucks.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.