WPSU radio story asks: Can State College support a local food co-op store?

Posted by Jamie Oberdick on 05/15, 2013 at 09:39 AM

A few weeks ago, WPSU ran a story by Kate Lao Shaffner during Morning Edition on the new Friends & Farmers organization. We wrote about them back in early April. Their goal is to establish a co-op grocery store with local food here in State College.

I was immediately thrilled by the prospect of a co-op here in State College. I was a big fan of the East End Food Co-op when I lived in Pittsburgh, so the concept was both not new to me and also quite attractive to me. The East End Food Co-op was light years ahead of everyone else in trends—they were doing the whole bring-your-own-reusable-bag idea before it became a common thing to see at grocery stores, for example. And the food was outstanding and always an adventure of new tastes when you shopped there.

So, can such a model exist here in State College? I think Friends & Farmer’s have already taken a good first step in doing a survey to gauge things like, well, interest. You can take the survey yourself here. As is pointed out in the story, many co-ops fail because they don’t do this sort of due diligence to get an idea of what people might want or even if the co-op is feasible. Personally, I can see it working well here. As the radio story demonstrates, however, not everyone sees the need for it (maybe once it’s in place those people will find it useful).

Another question asked was whether this was direct competition for the farmer’s market. Ideas on this lean toward no, it seems. One of the drawbacks of a farmer’s market is the limited hours, often they are held in one day and at times that might not fit in everyone’s schedule. This is a point that our UnPaid Fieldhand Local Food Journey contributor James Eisenstein mentions in the radio story, noting that a co-op could increase demand for local food. Plus, Friends & Farmers have a farmer on the board and they are focused to reaching out to local farmers as another outlet, and to work with farmer’s markets.

Of course, the whole idea is just that right now - an idea. But lots of work is going on behind the scenes, including some careful planning, fundraising, etc. As noted in the story, we might be two years away (at least) from an actual grocery store.

What do you think? Would you support a local co-op grocery?

{name} Author: Jamie Oberdick

Bio: Editor, Local Food Journey | Passionate about supporting local food in Central PA

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