Laura Wight, one of the movers and shakers behind the possible new food co-op in Brookings, recently answered some questions for me:
In a nutshell, what is a food co-op? In a nutshell, a food co-op is a cooperatively owned grocery store, predominantly carrying natural foods. A group of people pool their resources to acquire the store they would not have the buying power to acquire otherwise. The co-op then works for the benefit of all its member-owners.
How does a co-op contribute to a more sustainable future? Our food co-op would contribute to a sustainable future by supplying as many products as possible that are locally or regionally produced, thus reducing greenhouse gases and fuel costs. The co-op would also be contributing to sustainability by supporting sustainable farming practices, and keeping profits within the local economy.
Why start one? Why shop at one? How is a co-op different from a conventional grocery store? There are numerous reasons to start a food co-op, one being, to serve the need of its member-owners. Food co-ops are owner controlled, meaning that member-owners vote on store policy in a democratic manner. Co-ops all operate under the same internationally adopted set of cooperative principles. The stores vary in size from very small to full service supermarkets. An important advantage of shopping at a food co-op is that all profits stay within the local community, rather than going to outside investors. Though everyone can shop at a food co-op, member-owners receive additional benefits. Food co-ops are also in the business of educating the public about nutrition and food issues.
What do you need to get this co-op off the ground? Capital (money!) Once we raise enough money to do a professional market study, which will evaluate long-term success of the co-op, we will be able to apply for matching seed and sprout fund grants. If the study indicates success, we would need people to sign up as members-owners. One way to get this off the ground is through non-tax-deductible donations – Brookings Food Co-op, P.O. Box 174, Brookings, SD 57006.
How and why did you get involved in establishing the co-op? One reason for getting involved is to be able to shop at a local food co-op with access to affordable quality food. Plus, I have always been concerned about consumer health and concerned for local farmers and food issues.
What kind of feedback have you received from your survey? What kind of interest and support is there in Brookings for this co-op? The feedback has been very positive from the community, and there has been interest from producers across the state. We are living in a time when we all need to be doing our part to make the planet sustainable for future generations, and from survey results, it looks as though our community is well aware of this fact.
Many thanks to Laura for taking the time to provide these answers and to the whole steering committee for the work you’re doing to foster the local/regional food network! Interested readers can keep up-to-date on the co-op at their blog here: http://brookingsfoodcoop.blogspot.com/