Co-op 1 of 12 in nation to win seed grant (2015)

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Co-op 1 of 12 in nation to win seed grant

By Jim Boyle
Editor
Jul 13, 2015
ORINGINAL STORY

An effort to develop an Elk River food co-op has gotten a boost from a national movement to increase the number of food co-ops across the nation.

Food Co-op Initiative, a national nonprofit dedicated to not only increasing the number of food coops but also helping them achieve success and sustainability, awarded  12 “Seed Grants” to new retail food co-ops organizing across the United States.

“The public interest in food co-ops is at an all-time high,” reported Stuart Reid, Food Coop Initiative executive director. “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.

“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 leadership, quality of business planning, potential for successful operations and 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 will raise matching funds in their community and collaborate with Food Co-op Initiative throughout their development process.

This marks the sixth round of Food Co-op Initiative Seed Grants since the program began in 2005. Since then, $560,000 in startup support has been awarded to 68 food co-ops. Newly opened cooperative groceries are expected to generate over $500 million in revenue over the next five years.

“This is a very select group,” Reid said. “We are working with over 140 communities that are actively engaged in starting a food co-op.”

The national initiative’s aim is to deliver access to healthy food in diverse communities across this country. It provides information, training and technical assistance, as well as seed capital, and engages in research to blaze, maintain and improve the development path for new food coops.

“Although we were only able to provide funding to a limited number of co-ops, we provide free resources, training and advice to all food co-ops using a Web-based approach, which allows easy access on demand and provides personalized services through mentoring, live training events and a lot of email,” Reid said.

Food Co-op Initiative is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) created to encourage and support new food co-op development. The Seed Grant program is made possible through a USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant and major funding from the Blooming Prairie Foundation, National Cooperative Bank, National Co-op Grocers, and the food co-op community.

2015 Seed Grant Award Recipients:
•Clipper City Co-op, Manitowoc, Wis.
•Elk River Area Food Co-op, Elk River, Minn.
•Friends and Farmers Co-op, State College, Pa.
•Little Falls Food Co-op, Little Falls, Minn.
•Sitka Food Co-op, Sitka, Alaska
•West Chester Food Co-op, West Chester, Pa.
•Long Beach Grocery Cooperative, Long Beach, Calif.
•Montavilla Food Co-op, Portland, Ore.
•Prairie Food Co-op, Lombard, Ill.
•The Renaissance Community Co-op, Greensboro, N.C.
•Local Motive Silverton Co-op, Silverton, Ore.
•Prairie Roots Food Co-op, Fargo, N.D.