A friend of mine took me to Rainbow Cooperative today. It was much bigger and far more packed with customers than I had expected. The current nationwide trend for food cooperatives has seen formerly vegetarian establishments adding meat departments to survive competition from Whole Foods and Wild Oats. This was the subject of intense debate several years ago at Harvest Cooperative in Cambridge, MA, where eventually a full-scale meat and deli section was added. But amazingly, Rainbow Cooperative is going on strong, with its vegetarian ethic intact and throngs of customers in the aisles. As my friend Scott put it, "Rainbow Cooperative is *the* nexus for San Francisco's vegetarian and vegan community."
At the check-out line, I chatted the cashier up. Not only was I able to find everything I needed, all items were competively priced, and in some cases even cheaper than San Francisco Wholefoods, which both Scott and the cashier call "Wholepaycheck."
Some highlights included
Organic Lacinato Kale for $1.19/lb
Organic Black Beans for $1.12/lb
Organic Peanut Butter for $3.64/lb
Organic Quinoa for $1.70/lb (versus $2.50/lb at Wholefoods)
The bulkfood section at this place was the largest I've ever been in. Every nut and seed butter offered in jars at the store were also available in the bulk section, including cashew, almond, hazelnut, and tahini, in addition to common peanut butter, and each was available in conventional and organic. I found teff flour, nigari, koji berries, and I just wanted to buy it all, but I practiced some restraint, since all I had was my backpack.
As we left, I saw that the coop had two bike racks. One was outdoors, while another was inside the garage. That was nice, given that bikes need protection from the elements, as well. As Scott grabbed his bike, I accidentally stepped in front of a car that one of the Rainbow workers was guiding into the garage. I immediately apologized, but she shook her head, smiled, and said, "don't apologize, you're a pedestrian and you have the right of way. Thank *you* for walking."
The cashier told me before I left, "see you next week!" No doubt about it!