West Chester Food Co-op grew out of discussions among a group of local people who felt that our community had inadequate access to the region’s agricultural bounty. They reasoned that local farms could be made more financially viable if farmers had better access to local consumers and envisioned a virtuous circle where people would have easy access to the region’s food, supporting local farms and farmers who would then be stimulated to provide the eaters with even more and more varied local food…. incrementally growing our own local food shed. After a meeting in June of 2014 with leadership from Weavers Way and Swarthmore Co-ops, a vision emerged of the West Chester community working together to secure the food that the community wanted through the cooperative business model. Outreach at our local grower’s market quickly gathered a group of like minded residents and over the course of several community meetings in July and August of 2014, the West Chester Food Co-op was formed. By early August a Steering Committee was in place and the group began to have regular meetings.
Since that time we have:
• Surveyed over 300 local residents concerning their food needs and preferences as well as their views on a community owned grocery store. Results available on our website.
• Published a Pre-feasibility Study that examines the prospects for a Co-op in our community both qualitatively and quantitatively (available on our website).
• Secured the assistance of the West Chester Business Improvement District and local business leaders.
• Started a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WestChesterFoodcooperative
• Received the endorsement of West Chester’s Mayor and Borough Council.
• Begun publishing a monthly newsletter.
• Received financial support from established co-ops to kickstart our outreach and organizational development.
• Hosted and participated in fundraising, educational, and outreach events aimed at spreading the co-op love. Our first fund raiser brought in nearly $1,000.
• Secured many hours of dedicated volunteer time from over 60 individuals as well as numerous pledges of financial support from the community.
• Recruited a real estate professional and a location consultant to evaluate potential locations in West Chester, including the West Chester Post Office.
• Gotten lots of press coverage including ChesterCounty-PA.com, the West Chester Dish, Fig West Chester, the Daily Local News, and the West Chester Press. We have a regular monthly column, Home Grown, in the West Chester Press.
• Been interviewed on local radio station WCHE.
• Maintain ongoing outreach at our booth at the West Chester Grower’s Market as well as a presence at many other community events.
• Created a website including on-line member-ownership purchasing.
• Prepared interim bylaws to be reviewed and adopted by the member-owners at the first meeting of the members (available on our website).
• Incorporated, with our steering committee becoming the interim board.
• Kicked off our member-ownership campaign with our first community meeting on March 15, 2015 at Sprout Music Collective.
• Secured over $18,000 in gifts, scholarships, grants, and in-kind contributions.
• Worked with local businesses to create a member benefits program, “West Chester Cooperates” which provides deals and discounts to our member-owners.
• Collaborated with Holy Trinity Church in the creation of a community garden to benefit the Friday Night Supper Program.
• Collaborated with local USDA certified organic farms to bring their produce to West Chester. Two 100% organic CSAs currently offer pick-ups in West Chester. In return for the drop off site, both farms donate produce to hunger relief programs in West Chester.
• Brought in a consultant to perform a location/market study. The results projected annual revenue well beyond that of other Co-ops-in-development in our region, and more than adequate to support a community grocery store. All of the sites examined were viable due to the strong demographic characteristics of our community.
If you think this all sounds like a lot of fun, you’re right! Join us!