December 5, 2009

LES Food Coop Preliminary Meeting

A very preliminary meeting to discuss the creation of a neighborhood food coop was held this past Thursday at the Education Alliance. A few members of the CSA attended, and many others expressed an interest in this project, so I thought I'd post some quick notes.

The meeting was hosted by Danny Rosenthal Education Alliance, though he made clear that he expected EA to have only a facilitating role in the project. Brian Crowley, of Hillman, also spoke -- he's a longtime member of the Park Slope Food Coop, and it was through his initiative that this meeting was held.

A food coop is, simply, a customer-owned and -operated grocery store. It's a small business, and it will be no simple thing to get this off the ground. Danny Rosenthal estimated a timeframe of 18-24 months, though there was certainly a lot of interest in exploring smaller seed projects that could possibly make a difference sooner, such as a buyers' club for dry goods, or an expanded CSA.

About 60-70 people showed up (including 8 CSA members). There was broad generational representation, though attendees were mostly from Seward, East River, and Hillman coops. Generally there was great interest in having healthier, less expensive options for food in the neighborhood, and, as you can imagine with so many people living in coops, strong support for the coop model.

One long-time resident spoke of how, in the 70s, she was involved in an urban farm on Grand Street (now paved over for parking). One new mother from Ecuador said that growing up she was able to pick fresh fruit from the trees in her yard, and wondered how she could give her daughter an experience anything like that. Neighbors involved in the restaurant business expressed their support. A representative of the Seward Coop Board attended, and said he would advocate for a partnership with the food coop, maybe even including use of the prized Hester St. lot (no promises!).

People were asked to sign up for two committees, a steering committee in charge of looking into how to actually start this business, and a short-term solutions committee to explore other smaller options. It was agreed that the first steering committee meeting would include representatives from the Park Slope and other coops in the city to draw a clearer picture of the nuts and bolts of this endeavor. No date was set.

If you're interested in joining the steering committee, you can apply to the Google Group here.

If you're interested in joining the short-term solutions committee, email Brian Crowley: bcrowley8 at gmail dot com