Bethlehem Food Co-Op in the Running for Community Improvement Prize
The Bethlehem Food Co-Op is in the running to win $2500 through GOOD Maker, a new online platform for catalyzing social change. GOOD has asked the participants to submit ideas on how to improve their communities and invites the public to choose a winner. The group proposes to use the funds to file incorporation papers, obtain permits and board insurance, and hire an outreach coordinator for their first membership drive. They need your vote to win!
The Bethlehem Food Co-Op has been working over the past year to bring fresh, healthy, and locally-focused groceries to downtown Bethlehem. On both sides of the Lehigh River, the downtown area has been defined by the census as a “food desert,” or area with low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. Jaime Karpovich, the woman behind Save the Kales! blog and television show, found herself without an ingredient mid-recipe, she voiced frustration online about how long it took her to acquire the basic grocery item. Cathy Frankenberg, co-chair of the steering committee, responded with a longing for a co-op like she shopped at in Buffalo and Pittsburgh. From that conversation, the first public meeting was planned, and a group of over 70 people gathered to start the process in November 2011.
The community has embraced the idea of the co-op, enthused by the prospect of a high-value economic asset to the community, offering quality foods from local sources at affordable prices. The store will be open to the public, but members, who make equity investments into the business, will enjoy additional discounts and have a democratic voice in the major operations of the business.
In it’s first year of organization, the Co-Op has focused on awareness, outreach, and preparing a strong background of data and plans. Local entrepreneurs, professors, farmers, activists, marketing professionals have formed several committees to focus on steering, communications, finance, and outreach. The group recently completed a feasibility study that is currently being analyzed to provide the statistical knowledge necessary to proceed. “Preliminary results are looking cautiously optimistic,” says Colleen Marsh, co-chair of the steering committee, “We are working hard to make sure we have a solid foundation.” Members of the Co-Op’s legal and steering teams hope to incorporate this fall and begin their first membership drive in the new year. The group hopes to open the doors on the Bethlehem Food Co-Op in April 2014.
To help the Bethlehem Food Co-Op move forward, vote for their project in the GOOD Maker contest at: http://community1.maker.good.is/projects/bethlehemfoodco-op. Voting continues until Thursday, October 11 at 3pm EDT.