Film Explores History, Importance of Food Cooperatives

Filmmaker Steve Alves’ movie “Food For Change: The Story of Cooperation in America” will be shown next week at Durango Arts Center. The event is hosted by Durango Natural Foods.

“October is National Co-op Month, so there is sort of a nationwide attempt to screen this film through food co-ops,” said Kamaljit Punia, who does marketing and outreach for DNF. “Steve and the producers of the movie have really gotten together an amount of support to make this whole screening successful. They really want to get the word out as much as we do about our co-op and every single co-op, which is pretty amazing, and just that whole alternative economic model is something that he passionately believes in and this movie tells the story of, how beneficial it is in our time now."

“Food For Change” follows the history of food cooperatives from the 1930s (during the Great Depression) to today. It was a work of passion, said Alves, a co-op member himself.

“It took years to make because it involved a huge amount of research; this was primary research looking at documents form the ’30s and things that really were buried in archives. I read a ton of old books about cooperatives, and once I had the story in my head, I sort of fleshed it out and had to raise a lot of money to make it, which is always a big job for a filmmaker,” he said. “The process of making it took about three years.”

The official release of the film was May 2014.

“I soon realized after its release that it wasn’t going to reach its intended audience, that is, mostly co-op member-owners and the general public, unless somebody took assertive control over the distribution of the film, and that was only going to happen if I did it,” Alves said. “The film does have an educational distributor, but even with that, I felt it was a really wonderful story, particularly appropriate for our times about an economic entity that follows principles of cooperation and democratic governance and all that sort of thing that I think is really relevant to our situation, and particularly relevant today.”

Durango Natural Foods opened in 1974, and the member-owned co-op plays an important role in the community, Punia said.

“The main mission of co-ops is for money generated to support the communities; to promote a regenerative economy. Something to sort of withstand the push and pull and the whims of whatever people are doing in Washington – those things don’t have to affect us if we have a strong local economy,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who you vote for: We’re entering a time that we vote every single day with every dollar that we throw down around here, and I think people understand that now. We need to say, ‘Hey, this is what a co-op is.’ ... So when people are out there figuratively voting with their dollars and feeling good about where they’re putting their money – here’s a place where you absolutely can feel good about.”

For Alves, co-ops are an important part of society.

“I want them to get a deeper understanding that our economic structure is not etched in stone. It’s malleable. And that people – average citizens – engage in a process; in this case, it’s called cooperation,” Alves said. “People can form entities, business structures, that create their own destinies that nurture citizenship, that get people to tune to what’s happening on the local level that get them to see that the nurturing of local suppliers of food is an important thing now and probably will be even more important in the future as we look at a planet in peril.”

Doors for the Wednesday night screening will open at 6 p.m., with the show starting at 6:30. Admission is free.

By Katie Chicklinski-Cahill  Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018 

[email protected]

“Food For Change” documentary screening

6:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Durango Arts Center, 802 East Second Ave.

Admission is free.

Visit for more information

top photo from Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Co-op

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