Molly Beauchemin

These 4 Bay Area Co-Ops Are Worth The Hype

The Bay Area has long been known as an alternative place, embracing community and the many forms it may take. Of all the organizations and businesses that explore these different forms, food co-ops offer an especially engaging approach–and one with delicious results to boot. Below, Oakland native and GC staff writer Nora Rose lists her four favorite co-ops–and what you should order the next time you’re in town.

Mandela Foods Cooperative

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Almost ten years ago, a group of women demanded access to fresh produce in West Oakland, and in June 2009 they saw their efforts realized with the opening of Mandela Foods Cooperative. Behind Mandela Foods is a desire to improve and support “community health and wealth”; the store is located just across the street from the West Oakland BART station, making it an easy stop for visitors and commuters alike. The store boasts a wide variety of locally-made products and locally-sourced produce, and also houses Zella’s Soulful Kitchen, which serves farm-fresh soul food. Mandela Foods Cooperative is an excellent one-stop shop, perfect for grocery shopping and one time gift shopping as well. Be sure to check out their selection of locally-made, all natural beauty products!

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Our picks: Zella’s Soulful Kitchen, Rhizocali Tempeh, The Oakland Chocolate Company

The Cheese Board Collective

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Located in the Gourmet Ghetto across the street from Alice Waters’ famed Chez Panisse, the Cheese Board Collective has been selling cheese, baked goods, and other gustatory delights as a worker-owned collective since 1971. Their ever-changing menu makes them the perfect stop for adventurous afternoons or leisurely picnics in the many nearby parks. But with their events and live music, you may just want to stick around!

Our picks: pizza of the day, lemon ricotta tea cakes (gluten-free), hazelnut shortbread

Arizmendi Bakery

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In 1997, following their own success, the Cheese Board helped found Arizmendi, a cooperatively-owned bakery. The first location opened on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland, and the collective has since expanded across the Bay Area, with locations in Emeryville, San Francisco, and San Rafael. With a staggering array of delicious baked goods, Arizmendi is the perfect stop for office breakfasts, group dinners, potlucks, or just for yourself. Their selection includes many sweet and savory vegan and gluten-free options, making them an all-around crowd pleaser.

Our picks: gingerbread stout (seasonal), wolverine roll (vegan), chocolate-mint cookie (vegan)

The Juice Bar Collective

Just around the corner from Chez Panisse and the Cheese Board Collective, the Juice Bar Collective is a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant offering filling, nutritious dishes alongside smoothies and juices. The perfect mid-day lunch break, the Juice Bar collective promises complete meals with all natural ingredients that leave you feeling energized and whole, ready to take on the rest of your day.

Our picks: tofu bahn mi (vegan), sunset smoothie, icebox pie (varies)

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