Why Grocery Co-ops Build Strong Towns and How to Start Your Own

Want to better your community but don’t know where to start? Enter It’s the Little Things: a weekly Strong Towns podcast that gives you the wisdom and encouragement you need to take the small yet powerful actions that can make your city or town stronger.

It’s the Little Things features Strong Towns Community Builder Jacob Moses in conversation with various guests who have taken action in their own places and in their own ways.

Say you live in a neighborhood where residents have poor access to groceries, such as produce, meat, and household necessities. You have the liquor stores and the fast-food spots—but no establishment where you can purchase items to prepare a meal or grab an apple.

What solutions come to mind to solve this problem?

Likely, only one: do whatever you can to lure a grocery corporation to your town. Sadly, no matter how many online signatures you generate, it’s highly unlikely that a corporation—putting projected profits above all—will move to your neighborhood.

And even if they do, it will likely mean your local government has to give the corporation subsidies and other corporate tax incentives—a risky bet that makes your city or town less financially resilient.

This is discouraging. You know your neighborhood needs better access to groceries, but the obvious solution is likely out of reach.

Thankfully, there’s another solution that, with a clear vision and buy-in from your peers and local government, can fill this much needed void: starting a neighborhood grocery co-op.

A co-op is a democratic approach to business, where the people who invest in the idea—also known as community members—and shop at the business own the store; therefore, contribute to the businesses’ decisions. Whether you’re trying to revitalize vacant properties or crowdfund an idea, co-ops ensure your community keeps its dollars in town, operates in the interest of community members, and pools the risk.

In this episode, I have Jacqueline Hannah, Assistant Director at the Food Co-op initiative on the podcast to share how you can start a neighborhood grocery co-op in your town. For the past 11 years, Jacqueline and her colleagues have provided resources to help build more than 144 co-ops, with more than 100 currently in the works.

You’ll learn the best strategies for starting a neighborhood grocery co-op in your town, including how to pitch the vision to community members and elected officials, how to translate your enthusiasm into action, and how the Food Co-op initiative can help through every step of the process.

Top photo via Wikimedia Commons

Show notes: