Food Co-op Initiative today announced Seed Grants totaling $100,000 have been awarded to ten communities organizing co-ops across the US, to be matched with equal amounts in local investments. These grants combine a $10,000 cash award with in-kind services from FCI’s experts including technical assistance, on-site training, and continued mentoring. The Initiative received 38 applications—a record high—requesting just under $380,000.
Who were these ten co-ops, and what made them stand out from the crowd?
“This year’s grantees have all of the essential elements we look for in a startup,” says Stuart Reid, FCI Executive Director. “They demonstrate community support, a balance of cooperative ideals with practical business requirements, commitment to best practices, and potential for retail success.“ Reid says that the caliber of applications has risen significantly over the three years FCI has offered Seed Grants, which suggests the program and the Initiative’s early support services are positively impacting food co-op development. "These co-ops epitomize what is possible with strong leadership and access to professional support and guidance."
Food Co-op Initiative congratulates our grant recipients!
What follows is a very brief profile of each co-op.
Maynard, MA, is an economically diverse community with a walkable downtown and a small-town feel. Assabet Village Co-op will be the only grocery store. They’ve met with strong community interest since their first meeting in February 2012. Like most of our grantees, Seed funds will be used to finance a market and feasibility study, along with training for the board.
Baraboo Cooperative in Baraboo, WI, combines the concept of a consumer co-op (owned by the shoppers) with a worker co-op (in which employees buy equity). Their vision is a 7,000 sq. ft. full service grocery store with unparalleled service and democratic control. This group wowed us with how far they’ve come in just a year of organizing.
BisMan Co-op aims to serve Bismark and Mandan, ND, with a 3,000 sq. ft. store. There is little to no access to local or organic foods in the area. They plan to use funds to support their membership campaign.
Before deciding to create Eastwood Market & Café in Louisville, KY, organizers contacted over 275 commercial grocery chains, asking them to look at opening a store in the area. A market study indicates significant potential for a 16,000 sq. ft. natural foods grocery and café. The Eastwood organizers have strongly engaged the co-op community as they have moved forward.
Hudson Grocery Cooperative aims to bring back a grocery store to downtown Hudson, WI. They have excelled at connecting with local business and the co-op community.
Local Roots’ market study shows good potential for a 5,000 sq. ft. store in Buffalo, MN. Their store will be an outlet for the many organic farms in the area. “Not only will Local Roots be a store,” they tell us, “It will also be an education center, a community center, and an incubator for small businesses to get their start.”
The Manchester Food Co-op currently has 755 members. They hope to open a 15,000 sq. ft. store in populous Manchester, NH. They are preparing to launch a capital campaign and hire a project manager.
Paso Robles Food Co-op in Paso Robles, CA, is perhaps the “youngest” co-op ever to be awarded a Seed Grant. They began organizing in spring, 2013. Careful focus on the Four Cornerstones in Three Stages development model has led them to build an exceptional foundation of leadership and community support in such a short time.
Richmond Food Co-op in Richmond, VA, hopes to open a 10,000 sq. ft. store. They’ve led a strong membership campaign and will hire a project manager this fall.
The strong organizing team at South Philly Co-op in Philadelphia, PA, currently has nearly 500 members despite working in an area with low household incomes and limited site options. They are working closely with existing Philadelphia co-ops.