Food Co-ops Benefit Individuals, Communities, and Regions
Food co-ops bring benefits to individuals, communities, and regions in addition to healthful food. Food co-ops:
- create satisfying jobs with better benefits than most retail jobs
- hire and train local people
- promote from within
- retain profits locally
- are committed to consumer education
- support the local economy by buying from local producers
- help preserve family farms by buying from local growers and family farms
- support organic growers
- use environmentally sound practices including recycling, reduced packaging, and reduced energy use
In addition, twenty-seven food co-ops have cooperative community funds that support local non-profits, usually in the areas of sustainable and organic agriculture, food and hunger issues, environmental action, social services, and support for other cooperatives. Two examples are:
§ Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Co-op in San Diego constructed a “green” building in 2002 with a roof full of solar panels. It was built using recycled and non-toxic building materials, has energy-efficient refrigeration, and is filled with natural light supplied by dual-glaze low-W glass windows and skylights designed to minimize undesirable heat gain.
§ In New Mexico, La Montanita Co-op’s Co-op Trade Initiative is an expansion of its efforts to support local farmers, ranchers, and producers, bring high quality local and regional food to consumers, and build the local food movement economy. This project serves a 300-mile radius around Albuquerque and creates wholesale markets, provides product pick-up and distribution, and supplies delivery service and refrigerated storage for local and regional farmers and producers. With over 1,100 local products from approximately 400 local producers and 20% of total purchases and sales in local food, La Montanita Co-op not only continues its decades long commitment to local farmers and producers but is also a leader in the local foods movement.
Howard Bowers Day grant – Stone’s Throw Market Co-op
With an $800 Howard Bowers Day grant, Stone’s Throw Market Co-op in Troy, OH gave scholarships to help send nine members of its organizing team to the February 2011 “Up and Coming, Up and Running” regional start-up food co-op conference in Bloomington, IN. They participated in two days of learning and networking with fellow cooperative organizers; connected with food co-op experts from Cooperative Development Services, Food Co-op Initiative, and the Indiana Cooperative Development Center; explored Bloomingfoods’ three store locations; and established mentor relationships with Bloomingfoods staff. One of the participants said, “It was one of most effective conferences I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to quite a few in a variety of fields. It was just loaded with information.”
As a result of this conference and because participants shared their new knowledge with the rest of the organizing team, Stone’s Throw’s organizing team meetings have seen increased participation and enthusiasm; the team has initiated new projects in outreach, governance, and operations; there is a new awareness of best practices; there is a greater sense of solidarity with other food co-ops around the country; and there is enhanced interest in governance.
Stone’s Throw anticipates that the most profound long-term impact of this grant will be the future leaders who have grown out of the opportunity to participate in the “Up and Coming” conference. Several participants are already considering running for the board and they will bring important knowledge, relationships, and perspective with them to the Board. The better educated and equipped the leaders of our group, the more successful the cooperative will ultimately be.
Every year the Bowers Fund gives a grant to the University of Wisconsin that helps about 20 food co-opers attend CCMA. Some would not be able to attend without this support.
An employee of a California co-op said about attending CCMA with a Bowers Fund scholarship: “I really enjoyed all of the workshops that I attended…Receiving the Howard Bowers Fund scholarship to offset the conference cost allowed me to attend this year’s conference, when I would not have been able to attend otherwise. The issue my Board had to struggle with in making this decision for me to go was the financial commitment. Receiving this scholarship made it easier for them to send me and they thank you for your generosity.”
Food Cooperative Development Conference, Indiana
The Bowers Fund made a $5,000 grant to the Indiana Cooperative Development Center in 2009 to help fund its 2010 Food Cooperative Development Conference, which was jointly hosted by the Center, Bloomingfoods, Lost River Market and Deli, and Food Co-op 500. It had two tracks, one for start-up food co-ops and one for food co-ops that had recently opened. Attendees at this two-day conference were from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan. The agenda included budget development, board and management roles, and how to hire a general manager.
One person commented afterwards, “Honestly, the most useful part was just being there, able to ask questions to other human beings and have a discussion about these matters with others who are knowledgeable. I remarked to my compatriots that things like the Manual or the Co-op 500 website are wonderful resources, but you can’t ask them questions. And e-mailing is helpful, but just not the same as being face-to-face, able to ask, and then continue the exchange. That by itself was worth the time for the seminar.”
On-Line Manual on How to Start a Food Co-op
The Bowers Fund made grants of $3000 and $5000 to produce and update the on-line manual “How to Start a Food Co-op.” Since it became available in 2002, it has been one of the most used references for groups starting a food co-op. To see this manual, go to Click Here.