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The HWFC Difference

By Morgaen Hansen

Feeling a bit lonely? If so, it turns out you’re not alone.

A few years ago, during the early days of the pandemic, seclusion was our communal goal. We avoided social gatherings, isolated at home, and turned to screens, books, puzzles, and other favorite hobbies for comfort and distraction. 

Now, nearly 4 years later, it seems the isolation we sought for safety during social distancing is plaguing us. Loneliness is officially a worldwide epidemic; studies reveal that 1 in 4 adults across the globe report experiencing regular feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

How big a problem is an epidemic of loneliness? General wisdom (supported by loads of science) says that the health of our social connections plays a huge role in our physical health. Social isolation and loneliness have been linked to myriad health problems, including cardiovascular issues, cognitive impairment, depression and anxiety, even premature death. 

So how do we begin to tackle this sense of separation? To repair the broken connections and rebuild our sense of community? There are any number of therapies and activities that might help: making time for old friends, taking a class, talking to a mental health counselor, all great ideas in their own right. 

Or, might I suggest, spending time at your local food Co-op? 

At first glance, a thriving Co-op like ours here at Honest Weight might afford a few different opportunities for those who visit, like a chance to support local farms, to eat the most delicious house made foods, or to snag a free reiki session before a weekly grocery shop. But what’s also on the menu is an opportunity to forge deeper connections and find that sense of belonging that so many of us seem to have lost along the way. 

Shopping at or joining our member-owned Co-op can be a great way to connect: to meet and befriend like-minded individuals, to share a meaningful experience, and to be of service to our community. And while nothing is a cure-all for isolation, this is a pretty solid start.

Honest Weight recently introduced a “Chat Checkout” experience for our customers. From 10am to 7pm, 7 days a week, Register 2 is dedicated to “an intentionally slower and social checkout.” The inspiration is Jumbo, a Dutch grocery retailer who pioneered the idea in 2021, and the concept is simple: to provide a slow lane for shoppers who aren’t in a hurry, and who feel like taking their time and having a friendly conversation in the checkout line. Weekday mornings, you’ll have a nice chat with Ed, who will offer you a joke of the day: often corny, but guaranteed to get a smile. Three nights a week, you will find “Laura the cashier”, whose peaceful energy is so very welcoming, and who will befriend your little ones for life before you’ve even paid for your groceries.

While Chat Checkout is a terrific offering for our community, it’s not truly a novel idea for us. It’s simply highlighting what already makes the Co-op so special: the idea that your grocery store cashier doesn’t have to be a stranger offering you a silent experience at the register. They can be a friend and neighbor. They can share recipes, know your name and the names of your children, and watch them grow from infancy to adulthood, if you shop here long enough. 

In the 11 years I’ve worked at Honest Weight, I’ve watched couples become families, one new addition at a time. I still see the member-owner cashiers and courtesy clerks I spent my Monday nights with back when I did member hours in 2012. I’ve forged friendships with co-workers, shoppers, and countless member-owners, friendships that exist both in these aisles and out in the world. I’ve said farewell to dear friends who left us too soon. And I see these meaningful relationships for others all around me. This, to me, is everything that is missing from the rest of the world. This, to me, is community. 

So the next time you find yourself feeling a bit distant from the rest of the world and are in need of a little human contact, come join us for a chat at Register 2. Ask about membership, and maybe consider doing a time investment. It might just be the first step towards the connections you’ve been craving.

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