How We Started
When Jerry and Kathy Nash moved their family from Urbana to Lombard, they discovered a lack of year round access to fresh, local, healthy food. They also discovered that a large part of their Lombard community is a designated Limited Supermarket Access (LSA) area under the federal government’s Reinvestment Fund (TRF) program. This designation not only provides loan opportunities for businesses providing fresh and healthy food, but demonstrates the tremendous impact a co-op grocery store would have for the community.
Jerry and Kathy’s experience with cooperatives began in Urbana, where they were not only member-owners of the inspirational Common Ground Food Co-op, but also volunteers.
What We’ve Accomplish So Far
In June 2012, Kathy and Jerry Nash began meeting with community leaders and residents to develop the concept for the Prairie Food Co-op. There was so much buzz that the co-op was featured on the front page of the local paper. In September of 2012, organizers held their first public meeting, in which the benefits of a cooperative grocery store were reviewed and volunteers were recruited to help build the co-op. Six months later, Prairie Food Co-op was officially incorporated as a for-profit cooperative business in Illinois.
Throughout 2012, organizers attended training on cooperative development best practices and attended many events to inform the community of plans to build the Prairie Food Co-op and gather feedback. One year later, in September 2013, the co-op partnered with the Lombard Historical Society to organize “Harvest Fest” – a celebration of local food and drink. The event was expected to draw 200 people, but nearly 1000 people from throughout the region stopped by to sampled the amazing food and unique drinks. This event coincided with a Chicago Tribune article discussing the emergence of food cooperatives in Chicagoland and prominently featured Prairie Food Co-op.
In October 2013, organizers took the important step of forming an Interim Board of Directors and drafted the co-op’s Bylaws. A few days before Halloween 2013, the co-op began selling Ownership shares and sold an amazing 100 Ownerships in less than 2 weeks. In response to this success, co-op organizers Kathy and Jerry Nash were invited to appear on WGN Radio’s Bill Moller show. Listen to the brief interview.
The organization has come a very long way in a very short time. None of this would be possible without the dedication and determination of over 100 volunteers who have committed their time and resources to this project. Currently, there are more than 20 volunteers meeting regularly – spending a tremendous amount of their personal time and energy to make the co-op a reality.
The Prairie Food Co-op board of directors is dedicated to following best practices for opening a cooperative grocery store business. The Board meets twice monthly to oversee the development of Prairie Food and to ensure we are making progress on our defined goals. We currently have a goal of reaching 250 Owners by our Annual Owner meeting in June 2014 and are on track to meet that goal. This is a critical milestone that will allow the co-op to move forward with a Market Analysis that will provide more detailed information about the future store – store size, products & services to be offered (such as whether the co-op can support a deli, etc), and the best location for the store. To learn more about our process and timeline, click here.