bulk

Better Business: Earthly Gourmet, Natural Foods Distributor & Social Change Activists

Better Business: Earthly Gourmet, Natural Foods Distributor & Social Change Activists

By: Jenna Chen, Marketing & Design Co-Manager

Earthly Gourmet is a vegan, gluten free natural foods distributing company based out of SE Portland, OR.  Heman and Marlena Bhojwani started Earthly Gourmet in 2006, and in a short 9 years now supply many of the top vegan, organic restaurants and businesses in our city including Laughing Planet Cafe, Sip Juice Cart and Canteen, Harlow and Prasad Cafes, Next Level Burger (a vegan burger joint that just opened on 4121 SE Hawthorne) and your very own People’s Food Co-op.  

People’s Food Co-op was Earthly Gourmet’s first customer.  In 1996, former Grocery buyers Melody Anderson and Sarah Barnard bought fair trade chocolate syrups and ginger chews for the store. They also worked with Heman and Marlena to inaugurate Earth Balance into our bulk section.  Earth Balance did not sell 30 lb boxes of their product until People’s and Earthly Gourmet expressed high demand and guaranteed an order.  This is an example of how values driven businesses can use their collective power to directly impact how something is produced, sold, and distributed – for the better.  

People’s commitment to buying in bulk not only reduces wasteful packaging but is more cost-effective for the consumer and producer.  Now, Earthly Gourmet distributes a wide array of almost exclusively vegan and gluten-free products to the greater Portland area, Olympia, and Seattle, and almost 95% of these products are produced on the West Coast.    

In addition to being a growing, values driven food distributor, Earthly Gourmet is working with Immigration & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) to employ refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and other places.  They currently have five full-time employees working for them that have come from overseas to seek asylum in the US.  These staff members often were employed as engineers and in other highly skilled trades in their homelands and now work at Earthly Gourmet.  Earthly Gourmet goes through rigorous and thorough questioning and investigation by the IRCO before being permitted to hire.  After they are hired, Earthly Gourmet trains them extensively on job tasks and serves as a resource as they adjust to living in the US.   Heman and Marlena’s willingness to open their workplace and hearts to those less fortunate than us and use their business as an example of how social justice can be actualized is truly inspiring.   

When asked what is next for Earthly Gourmet, a company that is meeting growing demand for vegan and gluten-free natural foods, Heman replies “The question is not how can we grow bigger - it’s how can we grow better”.  As People’s embarks into a future yet to be written, the idea of better growth rings clear and relevant.  How can we stay connected to our roots, our community, support the farmers and food producers around us in a sustainable way and thrive in our city?  The answer is up to us. 

A delicious lunch of vegan, gluten-free pizza, made in Earthly Gourmet's on-stie commercial kitchen which houses the headquarters of gluten-free bakery  Sift .  All ingredients on the pizzas are ones that Earthly Gourmet distribute.  

A delicious lunch of vegan, gluten-free pizza, made in Earthly Gourmet's on-stie commercial kitchen which houses the headquarters of gluten-free bakery Sift.  All ingredients on the pizzas are ones that Earthly Gourmet distribute.  

For the Love of Bulk

For the Love of Bulk

By Kahadish Wa'adabisha, Bulk Buyer, Collective Manager

The History of Bulk

The bulk section at People’s Food Co-op offers a wide array of foodstuffs that are in alignment with values that began in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. Around that time, the number of farms were declining and access to healthy, organic and pesticide-free food was not a primary focus. As a result food cooperatives were established by groups of people who wanted to make decisions about production and distribution of foodstuffs and the quality of food we eat. 

Food co-ops were on the front line of creating what are now known as “health food stores”. And between 1969 and 1970 approximately 10,000 food coops were established throughout the United States (People’s Food Coop being one of these co-ops).

The food cooperative movement, specific to the foundation of People’s, is different than the general health food movement in that it is very intentional. It is based on values, as seen in the Rochdale principles which guide the co-op:

  1. Voluntary & open membership
  2. Democratic Member control
  3. Member economic participation
  4. Autonomy & independence 
  5. Education, training & information
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives
  7. Concern for community

Making Bulk Part of your Everyday Life

In our bulk section you’ll notice a wide variety of organically grown grains, beans, seaweeds, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and even so called “super foods”, many of which are locally grown (noted by the Foodshed logos in the store). These items are significant in our co-op history, in that at co-ops used to be the main provider of these items to our community. 

Yet, lifestyles have changed over the last fifty years. People are busy and have so many obligations that they’re running between. Food options have been created that fit this lifestyle—there’smore eating out, grab and go, snacks and prepared food. There is less time given to and available for preparing food at home. 

But preparing food as it was originally intended grounds us in the movement that led to the founding of People’s Food Co-op and other food co-ops. Eating food in its whole form helps to fertilize the garden of our own bodies by honoring food preparation, eating the food we prepare, and returning to sharing food as a community.

Where to Start

There is something intentional in the action of preparing food in its most basic form. It connects us with the community it serves and the earth it comes from.  For example, try making beans instead of buying them canned. Through the process of making food from its whole form, you may find yourself having time to enjoy the beauty and colors of the food you eat. You’ll be honoring the fact that many of us have access to healthy, kindly planted and harvested food. You may be using your own containers and bags andtherefore reducing waste (statistics from the EPA show we generate approximately 80 million tons of waste fr om packaging and containers annually). And you’ll be supporting farmers and taking part in a legacy of food preparation that dates back to generations long before us.

Here's a recipe to get you started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups onion 
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons (or more) curry powder and garam masala
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 cup fresh tomato or 1, 15 oz canned tomatoes drained
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cups water
  • Lime wedges
  • Cilantro

Directions:

Saute onion, garlic, ginger and spices in olive oil. Add squash, lentils, tomato and salt. Then add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring until the squash is tender for about 20 minutes. Stir in coconut milkand simmer until heated through, about 1 minute. Serve with lime wedges and cilantro and enjoy as this dish makes you comfy cozy