The East End Food Co-op is Pittsburgh’s “only member-owned natural and organic food market,” as stated on their GreenerPittsburgh page. We wanted to find out how the store ensures that their food is natural and organic. It turns out that the Co-op has a straight-forward set of policies to ensure the “highest quality produce in Pittsburgh.”

Coop Buying Principles

The principles in the image above prioritize choices when purchasing fresh produce. For example, local food is defined as coming from any farm within 250 miles of the city. The top preference is for locally-grown food that is certified organic. According to the USDA, organic food grown using “methods that preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials, such as pesticides and antibiotics.” The certification ensures that the produce comes from a farm that uses all organic processes in growing and handling the food.


Because there is a cost associated with the organic certification, many farms cannot afford to attain the USDA Organic label. Additionally, sometimes local organic food is unavailable. In this case, the Co-op will look to conventionally grown food.

Promoting a Growing Belief

In addition to local and organic food, the Co-op strives to find minimally processed and minimally packaged food. It might be difficult for consumers to control the environmental impact of their food, but the store where the food comes from can have an impact. The East End Co-op has implemented many of their policies so that consumers can feel confident that their food has been sourced sustainably. Their goal is for all items to come at the best price with a positive impact on the community and environment where it was produced.

There is an unseen cost we pay as a result of the emissions and pollution caused by the product’s long-distance transport

The East End Co-op team makes a strong effort to understand their environmental impact and how to improve it. Heather Hackett, Marketing and Member Services Manager, explains that when it comes to sustainability, “we often consider the outcomes on a global scale. We think of benefits that are experienced worldwide and help preserve the world that future generations will inherit. While this assessment is accurate, it overlooks the more immediate benefits that we as individuals experience from living a sustainable lifestyle, not to mention the positive impact it can have on our community.” She explains that “the simplest, yet most important thing we can do as individuals to contribute to a sustainable food system is to shop locally. When we buy imported food there is an unseen cost we pay as a result of the emissions and pollution caused by the product’s long-distance transport.”

Read more on their Sustainability Policy here:

Local Outreach

Beyond sourcing many of their products locally and employing the local community, the East End Co-op hosts and supports a variety of local events. Many of these events are educational and focus on food-related topics like Fair Trade, which they will discuss with Tim McGrail of Equal Exchange at the Carnegie Library of Homewood on October 8th or DIY Backyard Composting with Travis Leivo of Shadyside Worms at the Gemini Theater on October 22nd. Visit their site or explore the GreenerEvents calendar at for more upcoming events.

Kate Safin

Assistant Marketing and Member Services Manager Kate Safin in Market Square, Downtown Pittsburgh

Know Your GMOs

October is Non-GMO Month and the East End Food Co-op is excited to present their second annual Know Your GMOs event. This year, a community forum will feature Pittsburgh-based organizations working toward a GMO-free food supply. The event is free and will take place on Saturday, October 18th, from 6:30-9:00 PM in the Connan Room at Carnegie Mellon University (See Map). Through presentations and a participatory panel discussion, the audience can expect to learn about the specific struggles (and successes) of going GMO-free for a restaurant, a retailer, and a manufacturer. Local Chef Trevett Hooper, East End Food Co-op General Manger Justin Pizzella, and Director of Research & Development for NuGo Nutrition Bryan Petrak will provide their stories. Senior Researcher and Author Denise Caurso will provide background on the science behind genetically engineered crops and moderate the panel discussion.

Learn about the speakers here: GMOs 2014 Speaker Bios and go to for more information.