A café owner campaigns
Viva Espresso offers biodegradable cups of fair-trade brew from Vermont Coffee Company. The snacks at the Old North End café are local, too. On a recent trip to Costco, co-owner Megan Munson-Warnken saw Philadelphia Cream Cheese on sale for $1.43 a pound. "At Viva, we pay six dollars for local cream cheese from the Champlain Valley Organic Creamery," she explains. "Other cafés aren't making these choices. There are organic coffee shops, but as far as a commitment to organic and local, we may be the only one in the country."
Now Munson-Warnken is making the leap from serving "coffee with conscience" to serving citizens conscientiously. She's running as a Progressive for a Ward 1 Burlington City Council seat. "I'm hoping to get people to think local to solve global problems," Munson-Warnken says, noting, "Opening Viva was a response to global warming."
The café was also designed for parents looking for a place to hang out with their kids in tow. No local hangouts were really "accommodating and supportive" of children, Munson-Warnken pointed out. A desire to build community, as well as to be involved in choices that impact the local schools, are big motivators in Munson-Warnken's decision to enter politics.
And while 8-month-old Viva is doing good business, Munson-Warnken feels it's time to get more involved. People come to Viva Espresso "partly because food is political and a purchase is a vote," she says. On March 6, Munson-Warnken hopes those votes translate to the more tangible kind.