Food Co-op Initiative Awards $100K in Grants
In July, Food Co-op Initiative (FCI) announced the award of 16 grants to new retail food co-ops organizing in rural communities across the United States. Fourteen of the co-ops received Seed Grants, FCI’s development support program that is made possible by USDA’s Rural Cooperative Development Grants. Two additional grants were made to the Placerville Co-op in California and the Old Creamery Co-op in Cummington, Mass., to provide similar support for communities organizing to acquire and convert a privately-owned business. FCI will follow these co-ops’ progress closely, document the unique aspects of co-op conversion, and create resource publications for future such efforts.
"The public interest in food co-ops is at an all-time high," reports FCI Executive Director Stuart Reid. "In many rural areas, grocery stores have closed, and chain operators are not interested in the smaller markets. However, by owning and controlling their own cooperative store, communities are able to ensure stable access to healthy food, provide meaningful jobs, and support local producers. Rural food co-ops can become both an economic anchor and a social hub for the community."
Award winners were selected based on the strength of their steering committee, quality of their business planning, the potential for successful operations, and the potential impact made by the grant funds. The awards will be used to help pay for professional business development, market studies, and membership recruitment. Co-op organizers are required to raise matching funds in their community and will collaborate with FCI throughout their development process.
"This is a very select group," said Reid. "We have had contact with over 300 communities that are interested in starting a food co-op, and over half are in rural areas. Although we were only able to provide funding to a limited number of rural co-ops, FCI provides free resources, training, and advice to all food co-ops, using an online approach, which allows easy access on demand and provides mentoring and advice through live training events and a lot of email."
The Seed Grant program is made possible through a USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant awarded to FCI to promote new co-op development. Primary funding for FCI work also comes from the Blooming Prairie Foundation and the food co-op community.
2011 Seed Grant Award Recipients
Allegany Harvest Market - Houghton, N.Y.
East Aurora Community Market - East Aurora, N.Y.
Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market - Fairbanks, Alaska
Fresh Connections Cooperative - Algona, Iowa
Kitsap Community Silverdale, Wash.
Lake County Community Co-op - Clearlake, Calif.
Lovettsville Cooperative Market - Lovettsville, Va.
Macomb Food Co-op - Macomb, Ill.
Monadnock Community Market - Keene, N.H.
Spiral Foods Cooperative Graton, Calif.
Blue Hills Market Bruce, Wis.
Willmar Community-Owned Grocery - Willmar, Minn.
Great River Co-op Walpole, N.H.
Riverbend Market Red Wing, Minn.
More information about Food Co-op Initiative
can be found at www.FoodCoopInitiative.coop.