Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a Grocery Cooperative?


A co-op is an independent, democratic, organization that is owned, operated, and financed by its owners. Rogers Park Food Co-op will be owned and operated by those who purchase Co-Owner Shares, but anyone will be able to shop at the store.

What does a food co-op look like?


While every co-op is unique and reflects the culture and vision of the community in which it exists, there are some commonalities. If you walk into a food co-op, you will most likely find a friendly neighborhood store that carries local produce, a robust bulk foods section, and unique artisanal foodstuffs. You will also probably find an active community bulletin board with comments from engaged owners and staff. At their best, co-ops are the heart and center of a community.

If anyone can shop at the store, why should I pay to become an owner?


First of all, the co-op needs co-owners in order to raise enough money to open. If no one invests in the co-op, this model will not work.

You will be a co-owner of the store with a vote on what types of products are sold and how it operates. Once the store opens, you will be more than just a shopper…you will be a co-owner, with a voice in the values of the store, what is sold in the store, and how the store contributes to our community. Co-owners decide together what type of food to sell and at what price to sell it. Profits from sales are funneled back into the store or used in other ways as determined by the owners.

How is a co-op grocery store different from regular grocery stores?


A co-op grocery store is owned and operated by the people that shop there. Grocery co-ops have values determined by their owners, but some common features of grocery cooperatives are:

  • Social responsibility
  • Support for local/ organic/ independent producers
  • Healthful foods
  • Clear labeling and reliable information about the products sold
  • Concern for the environment
  • Care or the community- making it a better place to live
  • Fair wages for employees

How does a grocery co-op benefit the community?


Right now, less than 5% of the food we buy is produced in Illinois. Because of that, Central Illinois loses $5 billion per year from its regional economy. Experts estimate we have the capacity to produce at least 40% of our food right here in our state. However, even if we would buy just 15% of our food from local producers, we could generate $639 million of new income annually. This would go a long way to keep our local farmers in business!

We have lots of grocery stores, and some carry local. Why do we need a co-op?


We need a grocery store that builds a strong partnership with local farmers and is committed to buying local FIRST. The organizing committee will contact local farmers wanting to work with us to help them with pre-season planning when the co-op opens. A working relationship with our farmers will enable us to help to decide what to grow, while ensuring that they have a group of engaged consumers with a commitment to buying local first and ensuring our farmers can make a living raising food for our community.

A committed partnership with our local farmers will also encourage current farmers to increase production and do more year-round farming—and it will attract more young people into the business of raising food for our community. When local products are not available, we can still support small, sustainable producers by following fair trade practices- and building relationships with small family farms and small, artisan producers in other parts of the country.

If our owners choose, we can even establish programs to help support our local farmers in other ways. For example, we could establish grant programs to help beginning farmers get started or to help buy a hoop house for a farmer who wants to expand or to organize a volunteer work squad to help with a big harvest.

What sort of food will the co-op sell in winter?


A commitment to sourcing local produce does not mean we can’t buy produce from other places when needed. There are a few co-ops that have decided to only stock local produce-which (in the Mid-West) means lots of greens and root vegetables in the winter! However, most co-ops carry a full range of organic and sustainably grown produce year-round, sourcing locally when possible.

Will the food be affordable?


Most grocery co-ops put a priority on paying a fair price to their suppliers and a living wage to their employees, while also making prices as affordable as possible. Our owners will have a say in how we balance fairness and affordability. Here are some ways other co-ops improve affordability for their customers:

  • Special programs for low-income customers
  • Accepting Link and WIC benefits
  • Assisting low-income households with the purchase of equity (ownership)shares in the co-op
  • Pricing discounts for people facing financial hardship

Ways to keep prices low for everyone:

  • Buying and selling products in bulk. Bulk buying can save consumers about 35%
  • Selling selected staples products at discounted prices or at wholesale cost (no mark-up)
  • Offering classes to help people cook and eat healthfully on a budget

One other important point…Cheap food is a myth. While the end consumer may view the food as cheap, someone is paying the true cost of the food- and it’s usually not the manufacturer or the retailer. Cheap food is subsidized by those who can least afford it: Farmers, farm workers, grocery store employees, other food service workers, and communities whose natural resources are despoiled through excessive use of chemicals. There are two sides to affordability- not just cost but also ability to pay. If we continue to pay people less than a living wage for their labor, food will never truly be affordable-just cheap.

How can I become an owner?


Each owner contributes $250 for an equity share. This amount is payable in one lump sum or in 5 or 10 installments. A single ownership and benefits will apply to everyone in the household. Each household will be allowed one vote. Ownership Application is available online or upon request.

How will the co-op affect other health food businesses, the farmer’s market, and CSA’s?


It’s our intent to complement existing businesses rather than compete with them. According to the “competition paradox” our co-op will raise awareness and expand the market for healthful, local foods in our community, leading to increased sales for farmer’s markets and other local businesses selling similar products.

We are aware the co-op may pose a challenge for some businesses, at least in the short term. However, we know of at least one type of local business- local farms- that need a much larger market for their products. If we want to have any hope of increasing sales of local products from our current 5% to 15% or more, we need to provide consumers with easier, more reliable access to those products.

Current businesses may have a commitment to expanding markets for farmers, but they lack the capacity. Others have the capacity but lack the commitment. By pooling resources and building on shared values, the co-op will provide both the capacity AND the commitment needed to expand business for local farms AND improve access to healthful food for local families.

I already support a local farm through my CSA share. Why should I shop at the co-op?


Rogers Park Food Co-op will support multiple local farms and food artisans. We will also be a full service grocery store providing customers with a one-stop shopping experience. Revenue from the Rogers Park Food Co-op will have a greater impact on the local economy. By shopping at the co-op you’ll be keeping money in the local economy.

I have special dietary needs. Will the co-op carry the items I need?


Owners of the co-op will help to determine the items sold. This means that owners can encourage the store to carry hard-to-find items. The co-op will also do its best to clearly label its products with any pertinent information (e.g. gluten free, low-sodium, vegan, etc.)

I buy produce locally at the farmer’s markets on Sundays and Mondays. Why do we need a co-op to sell these same items?


Our Farmers’ Markets provide vendors with only five hours on Sunday and four hours on Monday afternoon to sell local produce. The markets provide customers with an opportunity to meet their farmers and buy local produce but it’s not enough to sustain local farmers and food artisans. A grocery co-op will provide farmers with both more capacity and extended hours to sell their produce.

Will the co-op just be an indoor farmer’s market?


Rogers Park Food Co-op will be a full service grocery store. Based on information about retail food cooperatives in markets similar to Rogers Park, we anticipate the Rogers Park Food Co-op will have approximately 6,000 square feet of retail space, along with 2,000 to 3,000 square feet of office, storage, and community space. We also expect to make space available for a teaching kitchen and community meetings, if so determined by the Feasibility Study.

Why do you need a feasibility study? Why don’t you just open and see if you’re successful?


Rogers Park Food Co-op wants to use information gathered in a market study and site analysis, store planning and design, and financial feasibility to determine if the community and specific location can support a cooperative grocery store. Thorough research and planning will let us know if we can move forward and provide lending institutions and owners with relevant information before they invest.

Where will the Co-op be located?


We have not selected a location yet. We will evaluate locations in Rogers Park after the Feasibility Study is completed. Our ideal location would be in an under-served location, have public transit and bike access and some parking.

What are the seven principles of cooperatives?

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
  2. Democratic Member Control
  3. Member Economic Participation
  4. Autonomy and Independence
  5. Education, Training and Information
  6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
  7. Concern for Community

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