Food Co-op 500 Becomes Food Co-op Initiative

On March 25, 2010, the founding partners of Food Co-op 500 announced that the organization will move beyond its pilot phase and become a new nonprofit corporation. Food Co-op Initiative will receive ­principal support through a five-year grant totaling $1 million from the Blooming Prairie Foundation and additional support through grants from other co-op businesses and foundations.

Food Co-op Initiative will use the new financial support and nonprofit status to provide broader services to the hundreds of volunteer groups working to bring improved access to food and other economic and social benefits to their communities. The Food Co-op 500 project was envisioned and brought to reality by the National Co-op Bank (NCB), Cooperative Development Services, CDS Consulting Co-op, and the National Cooperative Grocers Association, in response to the surging wave of interest in establishing new retail food co-ops. Over the last five years, the organization has built a reputation for its specialized ­technical resources, training and personal support to groups trying to form new food co-ops.

The founding partners of Food Co-op 500 will continue to provide resources and support to Food Co-op Initiative. “NCGA has a vital interest in the growth and development of the food co-op sector. We have a long history with Food Co-op 500, and we look forward to supporting the success of Food Co-op Initiative,” said Robynn Shrader, NCGA’s chief executive officer.

The Blooming Prairie Foundation supported these initial efforts with grants that were awarded to startup co-ops for organizing activities and feasibility research. According to Anya Firszt, chair of the Blooming Prairie Foundation, “We see this commitment to supporting new co-ops as an important legacy that the pioneers of the food co-op movement are leaving to the future generation. Our foundation was established through the financial success of Midwestern co-ops, and we believe Food Co-op Initiative will ensure that more communities can share that success well into the future.”

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