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Viva City Council? 

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.

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About The Author

Suzanne Podhaizer

Suzanne Podhaizer

Contributor Suzanne Podhaizer is an award-winning food writer (and the former Seven Days food editor) as well as a chef, farmer, and food-systems consultant. She has given talks at the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture's "Poultry School" and its flagship "Young Farmers' Conference." She can slaughter a goose,... more


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