Community-owned co-op grocery stores key in revitalizing food deserts

Community-owned Grocery in Detroit

Detroit People’s Food Co-op, opening later this year in a food desert, is an example of a community-driven project.

Food insecurity and lack of area grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods hold much blame for hunger in America. Local and state governments, along with national leaders have prioritized the elimination of “food deserts,” with large retailers promising to open or expand stores in underserved areas.  Some got past the planning stage or closed shortly after opening. The article “Why community-owned grocery stores like co-ops are the best recipe for revitalizing food deserts” looks at 71 supermarkets that had plans to open in a food desert since 2000, and explores why some groceries succeeded while others failed.

The supermarkets driven by government or commercial interests had a mixed track record, but nonprofits and those driven by community involvement tended to succeed.

Author Catherine Brinkley, Assistant Professor of Community and Regional Development at the University of California – Davis noted, “Importantly, 16 of the 18 community-driven cases were structured as cooperatives, which are rooted in their communities through customer ownership, democratic governance and shared social values.”

Policymakers and officials interested in improving wellness in food deserts should consider community ownership and involvement. If you are involved in efforts to bring a supermarket to an underserved community and want to consider cooperative business options, contact the OSU CFAES Center for Cooperatives by calling 740-289-2071 ext. 111.

CFAES Center for Cooperatives kicks off Appalachia Cooperates Initiative

A group of individuals interested in growing co-op culture in central Appalachia filled the meeting room March 22 at the West Virginia State University Economic Development Center in Charleston, WV when the Ohio State University CFAES Center for Cooperatives hosted the inaugural meeting of the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative.  The group ranged from farmers and small business owners, to attorneys, credit unions, and cooperative business development agencies.

Featured speakers included Dr. J. Todd Nesbitt, Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Geography at Pennsylvania’s Lock Haven University and Leslie Schaller, one of the founding members of Casa Nueva, a successful worker-owned restaurant cooperative and also the Director of Programs at the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) in Athens, Ohio.  Nesbitt, who has studied and developed a course on sustainability in Appalachia, shared “A Case for Economic Distributism in West Virginia.”  Schaller shared the history and development of Casa Nueva and insights on the success of the cooperative business.

Participants also heard from Gail Patton, Executive Director and Ursulette Huntley, Program Director at Unlimited Future, Inc., a non-for-profit microenterprise development center and business incubator, who shared their experience with the development of one of West Virginia’s first non-agriculture cooperatives.

During lunchtime, attendees viewed the film, Shift Change, and learned about worker-owned co-ops not far from the Appalachian region and around the world.  “Seeing how a worker-owned co-op can empower members of a community and provide jobs and economic growth for an area helped to spark some ideas among those in attendance,” said Joy Bauman, program coordinator at the OSU CFAES Center for Cooperatives.

Daniel Eades, West Virginia University Rural Economics Extension Specialist and Michael Dougherty, West Virginia University Community Resources and Economic Development Extension Specialist led a discussion about challenges with developing businesses in Central Appalachia, ways Appalachian communities are uniquely positioned to develop businesses, and what resources and tools work well in Central Appalachia’s environment.  This activity led to much discussion and discovery of ways those interested in growing the cooperative culture in Central Appalachia can network to assist each other and share solutions.

OSU CFAES Center for Cooperatives program manager Hannah Scott spoke about resources and technical assistance offered by the Center and encouraged participants to stay connected and consider becoming involved on a regular basis with the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative group.  “Getting cooperative-minded people together to connect and learn from each other’s experiences will help them build a network that fosters cooperative business,” Scott explained.

Scott said that the CFAES Center for Cooperatives will soon be planning another activity for those interested in the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative, and that she hopes to hold quarterly events for the group over the coming year.  If you are interested in developing co-op culture in Central Appalachia, for more information, or to be added to the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative email list to be notified about upcoming events, contact Joy Bauman at 740-289-2071 ext. 111 or email bauman.67@osu.edu.

Scaling-up to Sell to Schools

 

Farm fresh food benefits not only students but the farmers that grow it for students. Scaling-up to sell to schools presents challenges, but farmers have achieved success through cooperation, collaborative relationships with buyers and year-round purchasing programs.

Farmers benefit from Farm to School

Institutions are a dependable market that provides farmers with timely and reliable payments. Clarity of a cafeteria’s needs allows farmers to plan production and delivery in advance. Schools streamline procurement, delivery and invoicing processes so farmers can focus their energy on producing high-quality food to nourish students.

Selling to schools is good for the local economy. Schools purchased $790 million of local food in 2013-2014. 42,587 Schools across the United States participated in Farm to School activities according to the USDA Farm to School Census. ¹ Case studies of public schools in Minnesota and Georgia found $82 of every $100 spent stayed in the local economy. ²

Some schools incorporate agriculture and nutrition education into Farm to School programming. Farmers that are passionate about inspiring the next generation of healthy eaters may have an opportunity to partner with educators to teach youth about what it takes to get food from the farm to the cafeteria.

Challenges selling to schools

Schools purchase a large volume of product. Small operations often struggle to produce a volume sufficient for foodservice needs. Cooperative marketing is a solution. An agricultural cooperative can aggregate multiple farms products to achieve intuitional volumes. A co-op offers farmer-members other benefits such as group food safety certifications, shared distribution and reduced costs on supplies. The Preston Growers Cooperative formed in response to the West Virginia Farm to School initiative. Working together, farmers achieve institutional volumes, maintain quality and offer a wider selection of products to local schools.

Farmers receive lower prices from institutional sales than other direct marketing channels. School buyers have tight budget constraints when making food purchasing decisions. The average school lunch cost $2.90 to prepare, only $1.07 of the total cost is allocated to food. The remaining $1.83 goes to labor, preparation and indirect costs. ³ Marketing Michigan Products: A Step-by-Step Guide from Michigan Farm to School is a free online resource that helps farmers prepare bid documents, price their products and negotiate contract agreements.

The school cafeteria is vacant during much of peak fruit and vegetable season. Minimal processing, such as freezing fresh food for future use, can be a solution. Cafeteria staff may process the food in the school cafeteria or coordinate with a food hub or co-packer to process the food in an approved facility. The Ohio Department of Education’s Summer Food Service Program provides a consistent market for farmers by purchasing food when school is not in session. Meals are served to youth enrolled in summer education programs at local YMCAs, libraries and other partner organizations.

Success

Farmers that have successfully sold to schools suggest developing working relationships with school dieticians, buyers and food service staff. Farmers should clarify vendor requirements, volume, packaging, delivery, insurance, payment terms and necessary food safety certifications prior to making the first delivery. Regular communication throughout the school year is vital to success.

For more information on Farm to School in Ohio visit http://farmtoschool.osu.edu/.

To learn about the Ohio State University Dining Service’s goal to purchase 40% local and sustainable Food by 2025 visit https://dining.osu.edu/sustainability/local-and-sustainable-food/.

References

  1. “Farm to School Census.” 2015. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Nutrition Service.
  2. Christensen, L., Jablonski, B., Stephens, L. & Joshi, A. “Economic Impacts of Farm to School: Case Studies and Assessment Tools.” Sept 2017. National Farm to School Network. Retrieved April 27, 2018 from http://www.farmtoschool.org/Resources/EconomicImpactReport.pdf.
  3. “School Lunch and Breakfast Cost Study-II.” 2006. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Nutrition Service.

*Originally published in Farm and Dairy newspaper 5/4/2018

Casa Nueva: A New Flavor of Foodservice

Low salaries, high turnover and lack of employee engagement are prevalent in food service. Eight food entrepreneurs had a solution; they would create a restaurant that empowered employees through ownership. In 1985 they opened Casa Nueva, the first worker-owned cooperative restaurant in Ohio, in the heart of downtown Athens.

In 1987 Casa Nueva worked with the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) to develop and market a product line of salsas and other value-added goods. The restaurant added a cantina in 1993, and a second kitchen in 2003.

Worker ownership in practice

Casa Nueva carries out daily operations with the help of worker-owners and non-owners (associates). 1/3 of staff are worker-owners, 2/3 are associates. Associates have an opportunity to apply for ownership after working 1000 hours in the restaurant, serving on special committees and earning positive performance evaluations. The co-op board of directors vote to approve or disapprove the associate’s application for ownership. All new owners contribute equity. The cost is offset by a raise that goes into effect when an associate becomes a member of the cooperative. Other benefits of membership include: voting rights, paid time-off, insurance and scheduling preference.

For over 30 years Casa has provided worker-owners with meaningful work, sustainable jobs and opportunities for advancement. Fresh ingredients, Mexican-inspired flavors, culture, music and art delight locals and students of Ohio University, the city’s main economic driver.

Founder Leslie Schaller shares Casa Nueva’s Story

CFAES Center for Cooperatives: Collaboration Creates Greater Impact

Among draft horses, Belgians are reputed to be the strongest and most capable. A single Belgian draft horse can tow 8,000 pounds. More impressive is what two can do together; a team of two draft horses doesn’t just double- but triples pulling power to 24,000 lbs!

Like a team of draft horses, The CFAES Center for Cooperatives combined forces with industry, government and association partners to achieve great things in 2017. Collaboration created greater impact through cooperative education, technical and development assistance for stakeholders and students of cooperatives.

The Center teamed up with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank to share best practices with the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network. Director of Food Resource Development, Mike Frank, led network participants on a tour, describing how the Foodbank has overcome challenges associated with the aggregation, storage and distribution of fresh food. The Network left with practical actions to improve their food hubs’ operational efficiency.

Collaboration between the Center for Cooperatives and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development provided valuable information to local ag producers looking to diversify or enhance their operations.   A Value-Added Producer Grant informational session with key speakers from the USDA was hosted at the OSU South Centers, offering local producers an opportunity to ask questions and get answers from USDA grant experts.

The Center for Cooperatives worked closely with the Central Appalachia Cooperative Development Group to start Unity Coffee and Teahouse, the first worker-owned cooperative business in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Five Baristas and a coffee roaster created the co-op with a shared vision to foster a commUnity that supports workers, customers and local residents. Unity Coffee and Teahouse opened for business in January 2018.

The Mid-America Cooperative Council (MACC) brought together cooperative developers from across the Midwest to facilitate communication and coordination of co-op educational resources. The Center met with counterparts from Kentucky, Indiana and northeast Ohio at United Producers, Inc. headquarters in Columbus for a two-day roundtable. Developers discussed programming, goals and alignment. The Center identified opportunities to boost educational programming and technical assistance in the region by sharing knowledge and pooling resources.

The Center facilitated cooperative education for visiting scholars in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics over their stay in the United States, including an educational tour of agricultural cooperatives at the Farm Science Review. Scholars visited with representatives from Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, Farm Credit, Heritage Cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America and COBA/Select Sires. The scholars returned to Ukraine motivated to share their newfound knowledge of agricultural cooperatives with students at their respective universities.

The Center connected with local vocational schools and FFA to build students’ awareness of careers in agricultural cooperatives. The Center hosted students at OSU South Centers, visited Ohio Valley Career & Technical Center FFA and served on an Ag Career panel in Ross County.

The Center worked with the Ohio State University CFAES Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics instructors to facilitate an undergraduate class project. Students interviewed cooperative leaders and created multimedia presentations sharing what they learned about the cooperative model.

Collaboration with partners created a great impact in 2017. The CFAES Center for Cooperatives intends to increase our horse power in 2018. We look forward to partnering with the Ohio Farm Bureau to provide cooperative education to the next generation of leaders at the AgriPOWER Institute and the Young Agricultural Professionals Winter Leadership Experience. The Center will forge new relationships with growers, producers and marketers at the annual Ohio Produce Network conference, the Ohio Association of Meat Processors conference, and the 14th Annual West Virginia Small Farm Conference. Together, the Center and partners are resolved to drive forward the cooperative movement in the region and beyond.

*View The Ohio State University South Center’s Connections Newsletter: Winter 2018 Achievements Edition at:

https://southcenters.osu.edu/newsletter/connections-newsletter

The Ohio State University CFAES launches a new integrated Center for Cooperatives

Center for Cooperatives reception at the OSU 4H Center in Columbus, Ohio Wednesday October 18th, 2017. (Christina Paolucci, photographer)

Friends of Ohio’s cooperatives joined the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and OSU Extension to celebrate the newly established CFAES Center for Cooperatives at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center on October 18th, 2017.

The celebration commemorated the 2017 National Cooperative Month of October. The event also coincided with Ohio Cooperative Week designated by Governor John Kasich as October 15-21, 2017 in a Resolution presented to Mid-America Cooperative Council Executive Director Rod Kelsay at the event.

Dr. Graham Cochran, CFAES Senior Administrative Officer, welcomed cooperative leaders from United Producers, Select Sires, Nationwide, the Ohio Farm Bureau, and others to the event, and shared the college’s commitment to organizational development and workforce preparation. Associate Dean and Director of OSU Extension Dr. Roger Rennekamp highlighted the importance of cooperatives and how the Center will be part of the overall network of OSU Extension programming to reach stakeholders in all 88 counties of Ohio. Dr. Tom Worley, Director of the new Center, announced the University has been awarded a Rural Cooperative Development Grant totaling approximately $200,0000 to improve rural areas of Ohio and West Virginia through the development of cooperatives and other mutually-owned businesses. Debbie Rausch, from the Ohio office of USDA Rural Development spoke to the group, highlighting the College’s 18 years of USDA cooperative development efforts.

Along with Worley, Dr. Ani Katchova is leading research programs for the Center and Hannah Scott is serving as leader of Extension and outreach activities. Programming for the Center will occur within and link all major mission areas of CFAES, including teaching, research and Extension. This integration is expected to extend knowledge to emerging and established agricultural cooperatives and support rural economic development. Furthermore, the Center will provide students and agricultural professionals with more interdisciplinary training and research opportunities.

“The CFAES Center for Cooperatives is expected to be comprehensive and bring together all three mission areas of the College – teaching, research, and Extension. We are very pleased to be well positioned to serve the wider cooperatives community in Ohio through the combined faculty and staff resources of the Center,” OSU South Centers Director Tom Worley said.

The Center maintains staff based in Piketon, Ohio and also has faculty presence on the Columbus campus. It will integrate the College’s current activities and operations that support cooperative business development, engage directly with long-established cooperatives, and provide cooperative education both in the classroom and via Extension and outreach programs.

 

Welcome to Collaboration Nation

The Ohio State University CFAES Center for Cooperatives has a brand new blog!

The blog features cooperative businesses, current events and research. It showcases leaders in the cooperative movement and gleans best practices. Collaboration Nation is all about building great teams and working together to achieve goals.

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