Community Food Co-Op
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Board Candidate: Makenzie Grahammelissa morin board candidate

What skills and qualities uniquely qualify you for the Board of Directors, and why do you want to run for the Board?

I recently graduated from a public health program that taught me to approach all my work with an equity lens and a focus on the strengths of an organization and community. During my second year, I created a strategic plan for a small urban farm in Seattle, and I want to join the Co-op Board to keep working toward a just food system where all people have access to nutritious, culturally relevant food. 
 
I bring positive energy and enthusiasm to all that I do, and I have a knack for holding the big picture in mind while attending to smaller details. I have strong communication skills, and I thrive on making connections and building coalitions.

Choose one of the six Co-op strategic plan goals and briefly explain why it interests you and what you could contribute to its development.

Unequal access to healthy food relates to unequal health outcomes, so I want to improve Healthy Food Access. I want to learn more about any barriers that people face to getting the food they need, and work on individual, community, and policy levels to dismantle those barriers.

What do you believe are the Co-op’s greatest strengths?

By far, the biggest strength is the membership. I love that the Co-op is a democratic institution owned by its members, and I’m excited to see how we continue to broaden our membership as we move toward more inclusivity and diversity—racial, economic, gender, ability, and beyond.  
 
Going along with the first strength, the staff and Board’s responsiveness and concern for the member-owners is another one of the Co-op’s great assets. It is refreshing to shop at a place that values open communication and actively listens to members’ voices.

Describe your experience reading and understanding financial statements.

This is an area where I would love to get more training. Beyond understanding my own personal financial statements, I have not been in a position where I needed to review statements for a business or organization.

Describe your experience, skills, or knowledge working with any or all of the following: cooperatives, policy governance, nonprofit or for-profit boards, or groups that use active member participation to achieve their goals.

  • For the last two years of my undergraduate career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I was on the Board of Directors for the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity. For the first year, I coordinated various small fundraisers throughout the year. During the second year, I directed our largest annual fundraiser called Souper Bowl, which takes place on the Saturday before the NFL Super Bowl every year. In this role, I supervised a committee of four coordinators; monitored progress on donations, publicity, volunteer recruitment, and event coordination; maintained donor relations via thank you letters, phone calls, and visits; and succeeded in raising approximately $28,000 to fund the student-built house for the following academic year.  
  • During graduate school for public health, I co-led Lobby Day for the Health Equity Circle, an organization made up of students from the different health professions fields. With two other peers, I led a group of about 50 volunteers to Olympia to urge legislators to vote for or against five different bills, based on how the bills would affect public health if enacted. We chose the bills based on where they were in the legislative process, as well as on how likely they were to move to a final vote. We then connected them to public health, making sure to include a focus on equity and anti-oppression. We created materials to leave behind for the legislators, and four out of the five bills ended up receiving the action we desired. 
  • Finally, my entire two-year public health program centered on using active membership participation to achieve our goals. Our program used project-based learning, which meant that we (the students) guided our own learning by facilitating classes, leading each other through cases written by faculty to identify and research learning objectives, and collaborating during team projects with community partners. During each class and project, all team members needed to be actively present and engaged in the material to ensure we all got the most out of each session. Through this experience, I learned that a team of people can achieve so much more than an individual, especially when we have solid norms, clear communication methods, and strong trust in each other.

Describe your connections with the community, including volunteer work if applicable.

  • Shortly after moving to Bellingham in 2015, I began organizing West African drum and dance workshops with regional teachers based in Seattle and Vancouver, BC. I started with community classes at a local studio, and then expanded to work with Western Washington University and Whatcom Community College to reach their students as well. I continue to work primarily with Whatcom and WWU to organize classes, and my partner and I host classes at our house or in Van Zandt when teachers are in town. This work has been enormously rewarding, as I have the privilege of playing a role in cross-cultural connection and deepening understanding between different communities.
  • I study Cuban Salsa with Antonio Díaz and Rumba Northwest in Bellingham, which consists of going to weekly classes and attending different community events that bring together music lovers of all types.
  • Before switching to Public Health, I was a therapist for children with Autism at the Sendan Center on Cornwall. I worked with clients in their schools and homes, and deepened my knowledge of the mental health system in Bellingham, Whatcom County, and Washington in general.
  • I worked at the Community Boating Center for two summers as a Youth Outreach Coordinator as we began developing boating/water education programs for underserved youth.
  • I volunteer with Planned Parenthood for various education/outreach events, get out the vote campaigns, and in the past I have worked with their Teen Council program (a peer reproductive health education program in high schools and middle schools).
  • During the 2018 election season, I volunteered with the campaigns for Debra Lekanoff and the Home Fund. I attended several Housing Week events during this time to learn more about the housing system in Bellingham and Whatcom County, which supplemented my work with the Home Fund.
  • I joined the League of Women Voters – Bellingham/Whatcom County in 2018 and I am on the Racial Equity/Healthy Democracy committee.
  • I am a team lead for a Habitat for Humanity Women Build team (just starting). In 2019, I will be an active member with the Whatcom Democrats, hopefully as a chairperson for either the Communications or Inclusion & Diversity Committee.

Describe your business experience.

I have worked with the billing procedures with insurance companies for Autism services at the Sendan Center, but I could use more training in learning how businesses operate and balance their bottom line with meeting clients’ standards and addressing their concerns.

Describe your background with and commitment to organic and natural foods.

My main experience lies in local foods, which might not always be organic. The Seattle Community Farm (SCF) was the location of my strategic planning project for my public health program, and they grew food primarily to donate to the Asian food bank in the International District. I strongly support increasing access to culturally appropriate natural foods, and it was beautiful to see how much the food bank clients appreciated the SCF’s donations.  
 
My research for the SCF project involved reaching out to urban farms across the country, and I learned that spaces to grow natural local foods can benefit society in many different ways: promoting environmental stewardship, providing health education, and growing food justice. A common use of urban agriculture is with school gardens, which allow youth to learn where their food comes from and how it grows. Another benefit arises when school gardens produce enough food for the cafeteria to use in meals for students. 
 
Another strong point of urban agriculture is its potential to build community. Many farms that I talked to mentioned that their sites were places for the surrounding neighborhoods to hold community events or just get a brief green respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Other farms house job training programs for different communities, and still others work to welcome immigrants and refugees by providing the space for them to grow their own culturally relevant food and connect with each other while doing so.

What committee/s are you most interested in serving on and what skills and experience would you bring?

I’m most interested in joining the Member Affairs Committee (MAC). It is important to me to connect with members and ensure that they have an adequate platform to share praise or concerns with the Board. I would bring strong active listening, problem solving, communication, and analytical skills to this committee. I also have experience working in projects with different stakeholder groups with conflicting needs and sometimes inter-group challenges, and my ability to balance these differences will be helpful on the MAC.  
 
With the MAC, I am excited to work on expanding membership to include populations that are more diverse. I want to find ways to reach those who are not yet members to learn what prevents them from becoming members. I then want to listen to any suggestions they have, and based on those, brainstorm different ways to overcome barriers people may face.  

  
 

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