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Bay Area Residents Launch a Food Co-op in Berkeley Fledgling Grocery Pledges Quality Goods at Affordable PricesPosted by peterme at August 4, 2006 01:03 PM
Berkeley, CA (August 1, 2006) - A group of local Berkeley and Oakland residents is launching a food cooperative, the Berkeley Cooperative Grocery (the CoG), in early 2007. The CoG's mission is to serve residents of the Bay Area by offering reasonably priced food and products that are sustainably sourced.
Quality and affordability are the two main tenets of the CoG. Its founding members state that "The CoG believes that every person has the right to affordable food and goods that are healthy and sustainably sourced." Further, they proclaim that such food and products "should not be the choice of a few, but an affordable standard for every individual."
The average for-profit grocery routinely marks up organic items as much as 100% above wholesale. As a nonprofit, the CoG plans to sell the same high-quality brands as other health- and environmentally minded stores at a much reduced markup (only enough to cover operating expenses).
How can it afford to do this? Traditional groceries spend about 70% of their revenue on labor. At the CoG, every member will be required to work approximately 2 1/2 hours a month in areas such as purchasing, stocking, child care, marketing, and Web maintenance. This keeps payroll expenses to a minimum and permits the co-op to offer products at a substantial savings. The goal is to have at least 75% of the co-op be run by members, with a staff comprising no more than 25%. The CoG also plans to accept food stamps and offer low-income membership investments once the store is up and running.
Requiring members to work not only keeps payroll expenses to a minimum, it also reflects a democratic system. In a true co-op each member gets one vote on every major decision, so it stands to reason that the workload be shared equally as well. In addition, says board member Shannon Kelly, "A sense of community and cooperation is gained from each member contributing to the co-op. Members take pride in the cleanliness of the co-op, get involved in suggesting new products, and feel as though their contributions are actually making a difference in their store and in their community."
Members must also pay a one-time $25 fee and make a $100 investment to the co-op, which is refundable if the member chooses to leave the co-op (the investment may be paid in monthly installments). These charges cover overhead, administrative costs, supplies, and facilities.
The model for the CoG is based loosely on the Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn, NY, where several CoG founders were once members. One of the oldest co-ops in the U.S., it opened its doors in 1973 and today has more than 13,000 members. It is now the largest wholly member-owned co-op in the country.
The CoG is currently making contact with local suppliers, raising awareness in the community, and seeking at least 100 pioneering individuals to become founding members before September 1, in order to be eligible for a matching $10,000 grant through the Food Co-op 500 Program ( www.foodcoop500.coop). This program is designed specifically to help young co-ops get off the ground.
In its first year, the CoG intends to be open as an online shop, with at least two pickup times per week at a central location in Berkeley. Within the first few years, the co-op plans to open a full-service retail store.
The CoG welcomes interested community members at its weekly meetings and answers questions via e-mail. To contact the board or to join the Berkeley CoG, go to www.berkeleycog.org .
For more information, or to schedule an interview, contact Elisa Edwards at 510-684-8041 or firstname.lastname@example.org.