Food Co-Op Bag

image for Food Co-Op Bag
This canvas, Food Co-op bag, and the experiences of its donor, recall an important era in American food history—the 1960s and ‘70s, when food became a tool of resistance, consciousness-raising, and self-expression. Activists, many of them students, embraced the motto “You are what you eat,” and rejected food that was mass-produced, distributed, and marketed by large, multi-national corporations. They raised questions about food safety, nutrition, and environmental impacts, while advocating new models for producing food locally and organically, and for sharing and buying it on a community-oriented scale.
Judy C., the donor of this bag, was starting graduate school in 1978 at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio. She was thrilled to find the Cleveland Food Co-op near campus and her new apartment, which she shared with two other students. Over the course of several years, Judy had been changing aspects of her diet, primarily because of health-related concerns. Like others at the time, she wondered about the long-term effects of pesticides on produce, preservatives in meats, and chemicals used in processing of grains. By 1978 she was ready to give up red meat and fowl, a decision she announced to her family as they sat down to Thanksgiving dinner. Starting with that first meatless Thanksgiving, she adopted a diet of organically grown vegetables, grains, and dairy, with occasional servings of fish.
The Cleveland Food Co-op was established in 1968 as a volunteer-based, natural foods store. Judy joined the co-op and felt she had found a place that offered the foods she wanted to consume, things like locally grown, organic vegetables that were not available in regular stores or expensive “health food” stores. She enjoyed re-using this canvas bag, remarking that the “Save a Tree” motto appealed to her environmental sensibilities as well. Judy said, “I liked the whole idea of recycling—it was something in the late ‘70s that not everybody did.”
Credit Line
Gift of Judy Chelnick
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Work and Industry: Food Technology
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
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accession number
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Physical Description
canvas (overall material)
overall: 21 1/2 in x 18 1/2 in x 3/4 in; 54.61 cm x 46.99 cm x 1.905 cm
National Museum of American History
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