Meet Kathy Fox

Q: How long have you been affiliated with Bethlehem Food Co-Op, and in what ways?

A: I joined the Bethlehem Food Co-Op in April of 2014. Shortly after, I started attending the monthly board meetings on a fairly regular basis, and from there began volunteering at the craft fair and for our information table at events. In 2015, I was offered a chance to attend a co-op conference in Boise, Idaho, and came away with enthusiasm for and more knowledge of the benefits a food co-op brings to a community.

I was appointed as an interim board member to fill a vacancy in January, 2019 and decided to run for the board and was elected in October, 2019. I now schedule and organize all information tabling events, house parties and presentations to various local community groups. I am currently on the Finance Committee, the General Manager Search Committee, the MOVE Committee, and the Sustainability Committee. Additionally, I served on the Ad Hoc Scholarship Committee.

Q: What skill sets do you have that would enhance the leadership of the BFC?

A: As a board member for the past three years, I honed my skills as a presenter of the benefits of opening a food co-op in Bethlehem. I have increased my knowledge of food cooperatives far and wide by of attending many seminars sponsored by the Food Cooperative Initiative (FCI), studying printed guides by FCI and other consultant cooperatives, attendance at in-person and Zoom meetings with the DelVal Food Co-op Project group, which is sponsored by PACA (Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance), MAFCA (Mid-Atlantic Food Cooperative Alliance), CCMI Conference (Center for Cooperative Management Institute) and FCI’s Up & Coming Food Cooperative Conferences for start-up food co-ops, all of which expanded my knowledge of the cooperative business model, allowed me to learn methods practiced by successful food cooperatives, and enabled me to establish relationships with board members from food co-ops through the United States.

Understanding and the ability to articulate the benefits of a food cooperative are vital in order to champion our co-op, gain community support, and increase the number of member-owners and, ultimately, shoppers. I’ve delved into topics as a member of the Finance Committee, the General Manager Search Committee, and the Ad Hoc Scholarship Committee, studying and learning as I go. I led the Sustainability Committee, whose volunteer members researched and presented a report to the board of environmentally friendly practices and energy efficient building strategies the co-op should/could use, which was given to the co-op’s project manager, the developer, builder and architect of our building. As the lead for our outreach information table, I’ve made contacts with many of the non-profit, health, and educational organizations in the Lehigh Valley, while maintaining a steady flow of terrific, dedicated volunteers to assist at all events the co-op participates in.

Q: The BFC culture is to be inclusive and diverse. High performing teams do better by creating a sense of belonging. Please share your thoughts on diversity and inclusion.

A: Being a champion of diversity and inclusion is imperative to meet the mission of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op, for understanding the needs and wants of our various Bethlehem communities essential in accomplishing our obligations as described in the principles of cooperation. The Bethlehem Food Co-Op is open to all to become member-owners, and this messages needs to be shouted out to all corners of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley.

Principle number 1 of the Seven Cooperative Principles states: Voluntary and Open Membership. This principle protects the fundamental rights of all persons who want to join. It is also protects members from discrimination as long as they are willing to follow the core principles and values of the co-op, and want to benefit from the services the co-op provides. The BFC does not discriminate based on gender, sexuality, social status, race, political affiliation, religion or any other personal details.

The Bethlehem Food Co-Op has made attempts to reach out to diverse communities within the Lehigh Valley, with limited success. Our messaging and actions must be better because the services we will provide (food/education) must be as diverse as our member-owners and the surrounding communities/neighborhoods. The co-op board is cognizant of the fact that our product/services/classes must meet the needs of our members and communities within Bethlehem.

As a member of the Scholarship Committee, I helped develop our current Membership for All program. No matter what a person’s economic situation, if they would like to be a member-owner of the co-op, they can be. We also need to increase the diversity of our volunteers and board members. The current board must make the time to foster relationships with our residents and members to increase diversity of owners and in key positions. Additionally, great effort must be given to assure the co-op’s employees reflect Bethlehem’s diversity in population/neighborhoods by setting clear guidelines for our General Manager to follow when he/she/they hire.

Q: What leadership roles have you held or do you hold in the community?

A: I am a past member of the Bethlehem Climate Action Working Group, the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, and the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women’s Environment Committee. In May, I was re-elected to the position of Bethlehem Voting District 15-1 Democratic Precinct Committee Person.

Q: Please share a statement of why you’d like to serve on the board.

A: After three years on the board, I know what work needs to be done in order to bring this idea of a food cooperative to Bethlehem. I feel that my involvement has been beneficial to the ongoing development of our co-op, and I will continue to work hard to insure that all persons who wish to become member-owners or future shoppers will receive respect, be treated with fairness and equality, and will benefit from the establishment of a food cooperative in Bethlehem. I want to continue to bring my vast knowledge of the cooperative business model to the board and committees.

Additionally, I would like to press the board and committee chair people to involve more member-owner volunteers in the process. It takes a long time and a big commitment to volunteer, study and participate in many aspects of cooperation to understand the work which needs to be done. I bring valuable experience to the table.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A: As an avid swing dancer (Lindy Hop is my favorite), I hope many of you will come to the co-op’s swing dance/fundraiser (with dance lesson!) scheduled for Saturday, October 15 – look for details in the near future. As a rule while traveling, I always check out local food co-ops. I hope you will do this too and bring back your ideas, experiences, suggestions and photos to the Bethlehem Food Co-Op (and purchase something local from them while you are there!).