Meet Cheryl Muñoz
Cheryl is the Founder and Marketing Lead for Sugar Beet Food Co-op and Founder of Sugar Beet Schoolhouse. To experience more meaningful connections to her local farmers and neighbors, she opened (along with hundreds of others) a cooperative grocery store in the Village of Oak Park, IL in July 2015. The Co-op celebrates community and good food by providing a full service marketplace for local vendors and producers and greater access to local, organic food. Her passion for education and skill sharing motivated her to organize an educational organization called Sugar Beet Schoolhouse that is a hub for food literacy through program development, facilitation and skill sharing. Cheryl received the Golden Beet Award from the Illinois Stewardship Alliance for Community Food Development and she serves on the board of Chicago Slow Food and is on the Food Access Committee for Proviso Partners for Health. She enjoys planning community events and farm tours, and loves sharing her passion with others. Cheryl lives in Oak Park, IL with her little farmers, Cedar and Cora, and her husband, Anthony.
What do you believe?
“Love is our doctrine, the quest for truth is our sacrament, and service is our prayer.” This is the affirmation of the Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation. These words center my intentions especially when I hear them echoing all around at Unity Temple on a Sunday morning.
If we came over for dinner what would you prepare for us?
You might expect something fancy but it would likely be beans and barley with a good salad and cheese. I cook every night for my family and we enjoy simple, well-made dishes that let the ingredients speak for themselves. I cook big batches of beans in my crockpot and buy them in bulk from Breslin Farms, an organic family farm in IL. Good food doesn’t have to be fussy.
A little known fact about yourself?
People are surprised to learn about the many jobs I have had. I flitted a lot in my 20’s (no regrets!) and developed skills and explored my passions while on the clock. I have worked as a floral designer, sommelier, dog walker, artist, line cook, studio assistant, sushi server, and wedding planner. (Don’t ask me to help with your wedding. I am still recovering from that one.)
What do you geek out about?
I really love collaborating. For instance, our non-profit organization, Sugar Beet Schoolhouse, is managing the Cheney Mansion Kitchen Garden this summer and we sought out community partners to help with the work. Through an organic chain of introductions, we are now collaborating with three organizations that serve young adults with mental and physical disabilities, senior citizens who want to join an intergenerational garden, and our public library offered to develop a summer reading program with us. All of the food we grow will be donated to our local food pantry, as well. When ideas are created and supported by multiple stakeholders with varied interests the outcomes are both sustainable and transformational. You can quote me on that.
Who helped get you here?
I would not have been able to see my vision for the Sugar Beet Food Co-op unfold without our hardworking, badass board of directors, and the 1000 + families who have joined the co-op. Their input, investment and trust has allowed me to have the opportunity of a lifetime.
Photo Credit: Jamie Kelter Davis Photography