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Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

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Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff grew up in Gujarat, India and came to the United States in 1964 to attend college in New York. Shanta moved to San Francisco in 1973, where she became active in the Food Conspiracy, an organization of food buying clubs.  Shanta later became a founding member of The San Francisco Bay Area’s Peoples Food System, a grass roots  movement of a fair food distribution that created several food distributing venues and community store fronts.  She is currently a co-owner of Other Avenues, a worker-owned  food cooperative in San Francisco’s Sunset District. Shanta is the author of two cookbooks, The Ethnic Vegetarian Kitchen and Flavors of India. The latter is now in its seventh printing.  Shanta writes articles about food, nutrition and cooking for India Currents and other publications. Shanta also teaches vegetarian cooking classes. She lives with her family in San Francisco.

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Other Avenues Are Possible: Legacy of the People’s Food System of the San Francisco Bay Area
Author: Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-232-2
Published: 10/01/2016
Format: Paperback
Size: 8.5x5.5
Page count: 200
Subjects: History-San Francisco/Food-Natural Food

Other Avenues Are Possible offers a vivid account of the dramatic rise and fall of the San Francisco People’s Food System of the 1970s.

Weaving new interviews, historical research, and the author’s personal story as a longstanding co-op member, the book captures the excitement of a growing radical social movement along with the struggles, heartbreaking defeats, and eventual resurgence of today’s thriving network of Bay Area cooperatives, the greatest concentration of co-ops anywhere in the country.

Integral to the early natural foods movement, with a radical vision of “Food for People, Not for Profit,” the People’s Food System challenged agribusiness and supermarkets, and quickly grew into a powerful local network with nationwide influence before flaming out, often in dramatic fashion. Other Avenues Are Possible documents how food co-ops sprouted from grassroots organizations with a growing political awareness of global environmental dilapidation and unequal distribution of healthy foods to proactively serve their local communities. The book explores both the surviving businesses and a new network of support organizations that is currently expanding.


“In this book, Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff inspires us all by recounting how cooperation created other avenues for workers and consumers by developing a food system that not only promoted healthy food but wove within it practices that respect workers and the environment.”
—E. Kim Coontz, executive director, California Center for Cooperative Development

“Anyone who cares about progressive social change should ponder the history of the Bay Area food co-op movement of the 1970s.”
—John Curl, author of For All the People:Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America

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What Others are Saying

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otherOther Avenues: A Review
By Seth Sandronsky
The Progressive Populist
April 2017

The author helps readers, especially those born after the 1960s and 1970s, to grasp the counter-culture ethos that partially propelled the People’s Food System, rooted in the Bay Area Food Conspiracy. The high-water mark of the PFS was 1976-78, she writes, showing and telling how this achievement gave wind to the sails of co-ops later.

Such is the nature of social movements. Their momentum can extend beyond their shelf life, as the Occupy Wall Street encampments gave rise to Sen. Bernie Sanders near-upset of Hillary Clinton recently.

Throughout the book are wonderful vegetarian recipes. Nimbark Sacharoff, also author of Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, lays out how the collective process of preparing, eating and distributing plant-based fare dovetails with the co-op experience, then and now.

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otherOther Avenues: A Review
By Jonathan Kauffman
San Francisco Chronicle
March 16th, 2017

Q: At its peak, how many businesses were in the People’s Food System?

A: Approximately a dozen storefronts. The biggest ones were the San Francisco Cooperative Warehouse, they did all the dry goods, and Veritable Vegetable, now a thriving national organic business. There was a big herb collective and a cheese collective. There was a one-woman milk business. There was a poultry place where we got eggs, and a Honey Sandwich co-op nursery school.

Ed. note: The People’s Food System fell apart in 1977 and 1978 due to political infighting and a turf war between two groups of former prisoners that ended in a shootout outside the warehouse. You can read Nimbark Sacharoff’s book for details.

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otherOther Avenues: A Review
By Praba Iyer
India Currents
February 18th, 2017

Shanta has been one of the very early writers for India Currents magazine and a pioneer in introducing Indian vegetarian cuisine to San Franciscans and others in the Bay Area. Her new book, Other Avenues Are Possible, is a comprehensive historical examination of the food co-op movement in the Bay Area and it talks of her involvement in The Other Avenues Co–Op Store. When she moved to the Bay Area in the early 70s, she joined the San Francisco natural food movement and thus began her lifetime of work with food and co-ops. This book is an in-depth look into the trials and tribulations of communities that have cooperated and supported sustainable farming and food sharing.  It is also quite daunting to read about the obstacles and challenges co-ops face even to this day when farm to table is an approved and accepted way of life.

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otherOther Avenues: A Review
Donovan's Literary Services

Other Avenues are Possible: Legacy of the People's Food System of the San Francisco Bay Area could have been featured in a column covering social issues or movements; but is reviewed here because anyone with an interest in food distribution systems should know about this history of the rise and fall of the San Francisco People's Food System during the 1970s.

With a blend of Bay Area and natural food movement history, this book uses new interviews, historical research, and Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff's own experience as a co-op member to chart the social movement which fostered the natural foods movement.

The People's Food System successfully and aggressively challenged consumers and marketers to rethink agribusiness and supermarkets, and created a series of food co-ops that combined political consciousness-raising with new ideas of how to grow and distribute healthy foods.

From restructuring and financial concerns to community involvement in food management, Other Avenues are Possible is especially eye-opening because it comes not from a historian or reporter, but from a participant who was part of the movement from its early days, making this a very highly recommended survey for any interested in the politics and culture of food.

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