After six years of laying groundwork and recruiting members, Oshkosh is getting closer to opening a food co-op.
The Oshkosh Food Co-op needs a total of 1,000 member-owners to launch its capital campaign to secure a location in the heart of Oshkosh, and 1,200 members to hire staff and open. Its current membership of over 900 includes households in 24 different communities throughout the Fox Valley.
The cost to become a member is a one-time fee of $180 per household. The price can be broken up into payments as small as $11 a month to ensure that membership is accessible to residents from all walks of life.
The Oshkosh Food Co-op will be a full-service grocery store that is both member-controlled and owned. A food co-op, unlike your conventional grocery store, has a vision that is more related to engaging with the community rather than creating profit for stockholders.
“Co-ops allow community members who may not have an opportunity to own something to become owners and have a say in how the profits are reinvested into the community,” says founding board member Kelly Matthews.
The member-owned co-op model are not a new concept — in fact, they have a rich history in African American communities. Matthews recommends that anyone curious about Co-ops in the African American community, read the book “Collective Courage: A History of African American co-operative Economic Thought and Practice” by Jessica Gordon Nembhard. The book is available on Amazon.
Today, the Board and members are mostly White, but its leadership aspires to attract board members, staff, and member-owners of all racial backgrounds. The current Board is taking concrete steps to ensure that the co-op is representative.
“People of Color are disproportionately negatively affected by the standard American diet,” says Oshkosh Food Co-op board member and food justice advocate Warren Bergmann. “The reason they are is because of general less access to healthy food and a high degree of access to the marketing of snack and fast foods. Having a nearby community grocery store that focuses on locally-grown organic produce and focuses on other natural foods and healthy choices can be very beneficial to the community of color.”
Angie Lee and her husband joined the co-op the first week they moved to Oshkosh in July 2015. A self-identified person of color and a member of the co-op’s marketing committee, Lee says, “I am most excited about the community aspect of the co-op. In addition to healthy foods in the community, the co-op will create social transformation and a place for people to gather.”
Lee says she hopes the co-op can one day open a teaching kitchen where members can learn new culinary skills.
While Matthews is no longer on the Board, she recalls, “The Board really from the beginning has been passionate about accessibility and making sure this is a grocery store that welcomes everyone, and that everyone can participate. We don’t want it to be a place that only rich people can shop. It’s about community building and a place for community, and It’s always been talked about as a project that will help strengthen our community for everyone.
“Co-ops are stronger when they are truly representative of their communities and are reflective of everyone who lives there,” Matthews adds.
According to the co-op website, new members will be entered to win a 3-course plated chef’s dinner for up to 10 guests.