Central City Co-op: An Alternative Shopping Experience / by Michael Graves

I get overwhelmed with the number of choices there are these days for eating healthy. Prepared meals in the supermarket, delivery services of prepped ingredients, personal shoppers who will go by your list and either have it ready for pickup or deliver it to the house…  So many options!  But we keep returning to an old favorite each Wednesday afternoon- Central City Co-op- in their current home inside Kindred Church in Montrose at 2515 Waugh Drive.

Order pick up is available currently at 6 different locations each Wednesday, including EQ Coffee on Heights Boulevard and Heights of Health on Frazier.  Travis Elementary parents can also pick up in the Community Room during the school year.  This gives Woodland Heights households a lot of options.  Our family still prefers to go to the Waugh storefront, where the kids can learn from the volunteers and maybe meet a farmer, and the adults can ask about recipes or share stories with old and new friends. 

Central City began in Houston in 2001 when a group of friends, led by local vegan food pioneer Pat Greer, decided to order boxes of organic produce from a local distributor and a small farm in Wharton (Gundermann Farms), dividing up the bounty on the front porch of Pat’s house.  

One of the best things for our own family has been the flexibility of the Co-op.  For our annual membership fee of $60 (which you can earn in sweat equity by volunteering), we have access to the weekly share of farm produce in 3 different sizes, plus 2 different sizes of fruit share.  The “share” is the portion of the weekly buy that Co-op staff put together each week.  They work with 12 different local farms plus a supplier of national organic produce.  Each week, they select for seasonality and freshness.  Sometimes that means a lot of eggplant and greens, but the national supplier is a great source of things that don’t tolerate July in Texas.  

Because the shares come in different sizes and we are not obligated to purchase every week, it’s easy to tailor our purchase to our family’s needs.  More fruit for lunchboxes for school and work when we need them, and a smaller share when we travel or know we will eat out a lot.
In recent years, the Co-op has added locally sourced meats, farm eggs and cheeses from the Houston Dairymaids.  Seasonally, they also have fresh bread baked by the volunteers at Kindred Church.  Co-op volunteers also make jams from unsold fruit.  Jars of fig, muscadine grape, citrus and strawberry come and go with the seasons.  Volunteers also staff the co-op.  I served on the board and worked in operations for many years, though now I serve primarily as a jam making volunteer.

Being members of Central City Co-op has provided our family with food and friendship for 15 years.  Our children have learned to eat a wide variety of vegetables, and appreciate freshness and seasonality.  I have learned to cook things I had never seen before, and learned so much about our local farmers and food entrepreneurs.  We encourage you to visit the co-op either in person on Wednesdays from 9 to 6 at 2515 Waugh street inside the fellowship hall at Kindred Church, or any time online at www.centralcityco-op.com

- Tiffany Tyler, Woodland Heights resident since 1997