A Local Institution That Fights The Good Fight

In this installment of Street Level Sounds, I visit another unique co-op store in Amherst; the bookstore Food For Thought

KATHERINE: My name’s Katherine, and I am a collective member here at Food For Thought. There are three collective owners, and I am the newest of the three. Well, currently, we’re actually four, but I’m replacing somebody. So soon we’ll be three.

DAVID: Right, so you mentioned the three worker-owners- is that sort of the structure of the way the store operates and the way the store’s run?

KATHERINE: Yes, it’s a worker cooperative and it’s collectively managed, so there’s no hierarchy in the business and we all equally share the roles needed to do day-today operations at the store.

MATTHEW: “Equal pay and equal say.”

Food For Thought Books, in terms of our general mission- we stand in solidarity with people struggling with social justice. And that’s an actually incredibly wide range of issues and topics. So that tends to reflect what’s in the store itself.
We’re looking for items that reflect those perspectives, ones that are basically giving voice to people that are generally, their voices are generally ignored by the mainstream- and/or overlooked, and/or denied. And we seek to provide a space where those voices can be promoted, and can be highlighted, and can be realized.

KATHERINE: Food For Thought tends to support- you know, like feminists or queer folks, and people who may not exactly fit into the mainstream.

MATTHEW: Malalai Joya recently came to Western Massachusetts. She’s one of the leading voices for women’s rights and for human’s rights in Afghanistan. UMass was supposed to be hosting her, and at the last minute for whatever reason they said that they couldn’t. We don’t really know why that was, but the people that were working with her called us up and said, “We need a space,” and we were lucky enough to provide one. We’re very honored to be able to have her here. So that was one event I was very proud of Food For Thought Books to be part of.

KATHERINE: We had The Beehive Collective, come in recently. They’re an artist collective in Maine and they do a lot of work around the anti-globalization movement or within the anti-globalization movement and a number of other things. And they displayed their artwork. So it wasn’t so much about a reading but more about presenting some of the projects they’ve been working on and some of the traveling they’ve been doing, and that was really fun.

MATTHEW: Right now we’re engaged in our own fundraiser, and it’s a pretty desperate one. We have been struggling with a financial legacy of getting out of the textbook trade a couple of years ago. We’ve been struggling with the debts that were incurred over this time.
Recently this fall we hit a wall, basically, in terms of our finances. We looked towards the end of the year thinking that we might have to close and instead convinced ourselves otherwise and decided to hold this fundraising campaign. We’re going into our thirty-eighth year, so we’re trying to raise $38,000 by the end of the year.

KATHERINE:  We’re about halfway through right now. We’re definitely looking for any additional support we can get. We’ve been doing a lot of outreach and I think a lot of people have stepped up. We’re still not all the way there.

MATTHEW: Oh, and there’s the 19th

KATHERINE:  Oh, yes. Another exciting thing for the near future is we’re having an event on December 19th, at the store at 6:00.  It’s 6 to 7, and we’ll be having a reading by a local author named Susan Stinson from her book Spider in a Tree, which is her newest book.

DAVID: Well, best of luck. You are a great presence here in Amherst, and I hope that will continue on.

MATTHEW: We do, too.

KATHERINE: And just so folks now, if you do want to make a donation you can visit indiegogo.com and just search “Food For Thought,” or you can go on our website, or also on our Facebook. Again, that’s “Food For Thought.” You can donate directly through Indiegogo, or you can also come in the store and make a donation that way.


Street Level Sounds are produced by New England Public Radio interns as part of AudioFiles. The interviews, anecdotes, and oral histories recorded for Street Level Sounds are designed to build a public library of the western New England experience, and are not intended as news content, or endorsements by NEPR’s staff or Board. For more information on Street Level Sounds, contact AudioFiles producer, Peter Chilton.

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