Maryland Food Co-op in the Smithsonian

Have you been to the Smithsonian Museum of American History recently? Did you notice that there were items from the University of Maryland Food Co-op on display?

In 2012, the Smithsonian opened a new exhibit, Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000, which explores the major changes in food in the United States since the middle of the 20th century. The exhibit contains the kitchen of famous chef Julia Child, as well as a variety of artifacts from the fast food industry to farmer’s markets.

Part of the exhibit is called Voting With Your Fork and is about alternative food production and distribution systems that Americans have used as political tools. Examples in the exhibit include the famous grape boycotts of the 1970s and images of the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program. Also included in this exhibit are two posters dating from 1986 and 1999 from the University of Maryland’s Food Co-op, known as the Maryland Food Collective. Both posters have images of fists punching through sandwiches and the slogan “Food for People, Not for Profit.”

This Co-op poster was designed by artist Artly Gnarly. Courtesy of Smithsonian Museum of American History.
This 1999 Co-op poster was designed by artist Artly Gnarly. Courtesy of Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Still in operation today, the Co-op was founded in 1975 and remains a worker’s collective operation where all workers and volunteers have equal voices. Located in Stamp Student Union, the Co-op sells sandwiches, produce, and other healthy foods.

To see the Smithsonian’s webpage on the exhibit and images of the two Maryland Food Collective posters, click here:

The University of Maryland Archives also has a sizable collection of documents, photographs, and artifacts from the Co-op and recently received more materials from the Co-op to add to this collection. To see the finding aid for records of the Maryland Food Collective, click here:


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