Planning for Grocery Co-Op Continues at Viña Apartments

By Morgan Jacobus

The East Denver Food Sovereignty Initiative (EDFSI) held a steering committee meeting recently at the Viña Apartments, where community members gathered to discuss the creation of a grocery store and the direction of a co-op. In discussion of the initiative, attendees communicated their desires for the grocery store.

According to the neighborhood members, they are looking forward to grocery store deliverables such as fresh produce and staple foods, but with an emphasis on locally produced food that is healthy and affordable. Many of the attendees expressed their wishes for a store nearby to source their food, since availability has been an issue.

One member explained how people had relied on the Pilot truck stop, but now the only gas station nearby is a 7-Eleven, which is difficult for some to access. The EDSFI members said that was a poor alternative to a full grocery store.

Another attendee described looking forward to not having to pay delivery fees, as delivery has been the primary way they have obtained their groceries. People also described their excitement for a community-centered store with an emphasis on food justice.

The EDFSI was brought together by Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca with a vision connected to food sovereignty, which is different from food access. Food sovereignty puts emphasis on the power and control that it provides, rather than being dependent on a system.

EDFSI wants to achieve food sovereignty along the food supply chain, from production and distribution to market and ultimately to community homes. Through each step in the food supply chain, EDFSI seeks to increase the community’s ability to meet its own needs and build community wealth.

Part of that goal is to “generate wealth and build power for Black, Indigenous, Latino and other People of Color producers, workers and residents,” according to the organization’s Food Sovereignty Supply Chain handout.

As part of this vision, EDFSI plans to take the form of a multi-stakeholder cooperative in which the consumers and workers have financial and decision-making rights in the business. As such, each member of this co-op would have a vote in the business and would receive a dividend of the profits if the co-op is profitable. This would make this grocery store one of the few with this co-op model.

The three parts to the project include the market and wholesale business, a kitchen for initiating food production, and a small-business incubator that will connect the kitchen to the market. For now, EDFSI is focusing on the store part of the operation, with a goal to launch by August.

The EDFSI has three committees that have been working on establishing a foundation in order to make their August goal a reality. Its outreach committee has conducted over 120 community surveys and hosted three pop-up market events in the store location, as well as tabled at community events and hosted one-on-one meetings.

The secured location was achieved by EDFSI’s finance committee, in addition to winning six grants to support the development of the grocery co-op. The group has identified local producers and distributors, and created a work plan and timeline. This committee has also worked on employment essentials such as creating job descriptions for key roles, as well as hiring a lawyer, store designer and architect.

Though a lot has been planned and coordinated, EDFSI still needs help regarding how the co-op ownership will be organized, the business plan, brand and long-term vision of the store, and how to further reach out to the community.

In order to execute these tasks, it seeks at least three to five people for the steering committee who are able to commit to three to six hours a week. The steering committee will serve a key role in the co-op, with responsibilities such as listening to the community, providing feedback to inform the design, hiring and overseeing the work of staff and contractors, as well as representing the cooperative publicly.

Further, such a committee may become the initial board of directors. In their closing remarks, EDFSI members explained how they need as many people to support the project as possible, and they invited G.E.S. residents to consider serving on the steering committee. Interested parties can schedule an introductory conversation by texting Sid Farber at 720-894-0314.

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