Response to Dan DePasquale, Surbhi Sarang, and Natalie Bump Vena, Forging Food Justice Through Cooperatives in New York City, 45 Fordham Urb. L.J. 909 (2018).

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In their article, Forging Food Justice Through Cooperatives in New York City, Dan DePasquale, Surbhi Sarang, and Natalie Bump Vena (the “Authors”) argue that consumer-owned and worker-owned cooperatives hold promise as a means for advancing policy objectives associated with “food justice,” namely building community wealth and power and providing more affordable access to healthy food in low-income and minority communities. Looking to examples of legislation and policies in other jurisdictions, they advocate for a wide range of policies to promote the viability of cooperatives in New York City, including reforms to cooperative corporation laws and strategies for better allocating funding and technical assistance to cooperatives.

I largely agree with the Authors’ argument and support their effort to identify practical policy solutions that would help food cooperatives in New York City overcome barriers to success. This Response makes three observations about their proposals. First, this Response observes that food access and economic development are distinct objectives and that consumer and worker cooperatives may have different roles to play in food justice strategies depending on how these objectives are defined and prioritized. Second, the significance of cooperative corporation statutes may be overstated, both because a variety of legal entity forms are available to cooperative organizations (mitigating the impact of potential reforms to New York’s cooperative corporation law) and because the legal form itself does not guarantee adoption of many of the values and principles commonly associated with cooperatives. Third, this Response argues that the role of other, non-cooperative organizational models should not be overlooked in shaping policy in this area. This Response advocates for a more comprehensive strategy that promotes a wide range of community-based businesses and organizations, including but not limited to cooperatives, and that allocates resources according to the identity of organizations’ stakeholders and the degree of their community impact, rather than relying on their legal form.