On Tuesday evening, members and fans of the New Orleans Food Co-op gathered together with the Nola Veg Meetup Group for a Vegetarian Potluck. The event drew a large crowd and an amazing array of veg dishes, ranging from simple raw fruit and vegetable salads to vegan casseroles like stuffed shells and shepherd's pie. The gathering allowed the attendees to make new friends, learn more about the NOFC, and celebrate great food. Best of all (for me), most of the contributions were vegan -I feasted like mad!
Beginning shortly after 6pm, attendees began to arrive with food (as well as reusable cups and plates) in hand. We were all eager to fill our plates, and with so many delicious options it became difficult to choose what to try first. Most of us went back two or three times in an attempt to try each dish - as the evening progressed, more and more potluckers flowed in, filling and refilling the tables with a never-ending supply of fantastic vegetarian delights.
All who attended seemed thrilled with the huge selection of food, and quickly got to the business of eating - and talking! The Co-op space became loud with the cheerful conversation of new friends getting to know each other and discussing veg eating options around town. Many folks had a chance to learn about the NOFC, which will doubtless be a boon to the entire vegetarian community of New Orleans. And a common refrain was, "When will we do this again?!"
The NOFC, slated to open late this summer, plans to offer a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan products for its shoppers. An emphasis will be placed on fresh, local produce as well as a large bulk section, making it easy to purchase affordable, healthful foods. At the potluck, suggestions were collected for specific brands and products that the veg community would like to be able to shop for at the Co-op. Popular items included Follow Your Heart products, Tofurkey products, Whole Soy yogurts, and Almond Breeze milks. The Co-op will be looking for suggestions throughout its opening process, so if you have ideas you should get in touch.
The NOFC is currently refining its product selection guidelines; though still in draft form, the guidelines provide a good idea of what packaged foods will be available. Ideally, the Co-op will not carry products that contain artificial ingredients or those known to be harmful, such as artificial colors, high fructose corn syrup, known carcinogens, GMOs, or tobacco products. It will also not carry health and beauty products which have been tested on animals. The Co-op will emphasize products that are sustainably produced, minimally processed and packaged, and either regionally produced or fairly traded. It will also make an effort to carry specifically vegan and gluten-free products, in order to meet its shoppers' needs.
Personally, I am counting the days until the Co-op opens! Until then, I'll stay involved in any way that I can. With the popular demand, I should probably get to work planning the next potluck. ;)