Food Co-ops we know and love!
Did you know….
Co-ops of all kinds are all around you. More than 800 million people around the world belong to cooperatives, and there are currently 29,000 cooperatives across the U.S. These organizations generate two million jobs annually and account for more than $3 trillion in assets, over $500 billion in total revenue, and $25 billion in wages and benefits. The cooperative model can be found across numerous industries—including agriculture, childcare, energy, financial services, food distribution, health care, housing, retail, telecommunications and more. The following examples, all located in Illinois, are just a small fraction of the Food Cooperatives found in the U.S.
Common Ground, located in Urbana, Illinois is the grocery store that introduced us to the “food cooperative” concept. This co-op was created in 1974 with an initial mission to provide food to low-income residents living in the community immediately surrounding the co-op’s location. The co-op has evolved, relocated, and become the primary channel for many local farmers to provide their goods year-round. It also serves as a community gathering place.
The Dill Pickle is the only food cooperative located in the Chicago-land area. In January, 2005, about 40 Logan Square residents meet to discuss starting a food co-op. The Dill Pickle opened on December 5, 2009 in a 1300 sq ft space, with 500 owner-members. The grand-opening was such a success that lines flowed out the door. That success has continued and the co-op is now expanding into a larger space to accomodate it’s quickly growing owner base (over 1000 owners).
The Duck Soup began in 1974 as a not-for-profit buying club for DeKalb, Illinois members. In the 90s, it expanded into a store-front and opened up buying privileges to anyone (not just members). Today, it is a bustling and popular store providing natural, organic, local, and bulk products.
The Neighborhood Co-op Grocery, located in Carbondale, Illinois, is the largest food cooperative in Illinois. Like Duck Soup, it started in 1980 as a not-for-profit network of neighborhood buying clubs. A brick and mortar store opened in 1985 and shortly after, the organization made the change from not-for-profit to consumer cooperative. In 2005, the co-op successfully raised enough money to relocate into a 12,000 sq ft full-service grocery and cafe, with enough space to accommodate a teaching kitchen for cooking classes and events.
…. AND ….. just 2 more examples from other areas to show just how popular and loved these community institutions are.
The Wedge is one of 11 food co-ops in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the oldest of the group (formed in 1974), and has over 14,500 owners. Since 1997, The Wedge has administered a charitable giving program that has given nearly $240,000 to non-profit organizations. The donations are given to community groups chosen by Wedge owners by vote. In 2010, despite a sour economy, the Wedge returned over $1 million in patronage refunds (dividends) to it’s owners, who received checks ranging from $2 to $1,731 (dividends are based on how much owners spent at the store in the previous year).
Willy Street Co-op, formed in 1974 in Madison, Wisconsin, is one of the countries most beloved food cooperatives and focuses on natural and organic products. The co-op has expanded several times throughout it’s history, and currently has over 24,000 owners with annual sales exceeding $26 million! Willy Street is known for innovative programs that foster and enrich the surrounding community. The store receives awards annually for excellence and community service. In 2012, it was voted one of the best places to work by Madison Magazine.