It’s great to see some serious talk about improving the quality of our food choices in Altadena. Her’es the latest from Patrick Reagan…

The next meeting of the committee to investigate an Altadena food
co-operative is scheduled to meet Thursday April 17th at 8:00pm at the
Coffee Gallery.  Our core group is getting off to a good start but
others are welcome to attend if they are interested.

The original idea for a food co-op got started during an on-line
discussion. There’s been frustration at the closing of the Pasadena Wild
Oats and an interest in a wider selection of products than offered by
existing stores in our area. Plus there are general issues, such as
rising prices, neighborhood access to organic food and the environment,
that don’t seem to be addressed adequately by conventional grocery stores.

There are some wonderful co-ops in neighborhoods just like ours around
the country.  They’re member owned so they’re very responsive to local
needs and contribute back to the community in many ways.  They also play
a proactive role that normal businesses seem to have a hard time with –
helping communities develop demand for sustainable products.  More
information is included below about how co-ops work and how one might
help us.

This next committee meeting is for people who are interested in, and
have the time to help research, what it will take to establish a food
co-op.  No prior co-op forming experience is necessary.  We’ll be
addressing issues of financial management, fund raising, marketing, real
estate and grocery store management.  So if you have experience in any
of these it would be great to have you with us.  The goal of our efforts
will be to prepare for the next step – which is to hold a community
meeting to gauge general interest in our area.

If you are interested then please attend. An RSVP to would be
appreciated. Please send it to…
patricksavesworld@dslextreme.com

If you’re interested but cannot make this meeting, respond with what
hours work for you and we’ll factor this in to your meeting schedule
discussions.  In the last meeting we decided to try alternating between
daytime and evening meetings.

Feel free to pass this information on to others who might be interested
and to post this information to any discussion groups/blogs for our area.
Thanks,
Patrick Reagan
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BACKGROUND

— What is a co-op?
“A co-op is an organization that takes the idea of working together and
puts it into a business structure. A cooperative is a business
voluntarily owned and controlled by the people who use it – its members.
It is operated solely for the benefit of its members, to meet their
mutual needs. When groups of people have similar needs – such as the
need for lower prices, more affordable housing, or access to
telecommunications services – cooperatives offer great potential to meet
those needs.

Although definitions of co-ops vary, they all contain the following
elements:
  – Co-ops are owned and controlled by those who use their services
(the members).
  – Co-ops are democratically governed.
  – Co-ops are businesses, not clubs or associations.
  – Co-ops adhere to internationally recognized principles.
In simplest terms, a food co-op is a co-op that buys food and household
items for its members. The co-op helps members obtain access to products
of desired quality at the best possible price. Food co-ops offer
consumers a retail environment free of coercive sales influences and
with full disclosure of product qualities and value. Food co-ops
typically operate out of retail facilities. Most are open to anyone who
wishes to shop there, though they may provide special services, prices,
or benefits to members only. Food co-ops may also offer a wide range of
products and services aside from groceries, including pharmacies, dry
cleaning, travel services, cooking and nutrition classes, housewares,
food service and catering, gas stations, etc.” (From “How to Start a
Food Co-op”, Cooperative Grocers’ Information Network)
— How would a co-op benefit us here?
A food co-op in Altadena could help us by…
  – saving us money by offering a wide variety of bulk items and
possibly lower prices in general,
  – offering organic/local/natural products in our area so we save
time/fuel by not having to drive as much,
  – keeping our grocery dollars closer to our community so our
successful co-op can foster local small businesses and offer non-grocery
community benefits (classes, etc.),
  – helping nudge our society toward more sustainable
business/consumption habits.
– Where are the nearest co-ops?
Co-opportunity co-op is located in Santa Monica:
http://www.coopportunity.com/co_opComp/home.htm
Isla Vista co-op is located just outside of Santa Barbara:
http://www.islavistafood.coop/ivfc/home.jsp
Ocean Beach is located outside of San Diego:
http://www.obpeoplesfood.coop/
— Could a co-op succeed in Altadena?
This is one of things the investigating committee needs to research and
why we’ll need community meetings. We’ll need to gauge competition and
survey community interest. Yet the prospects look promising based upon
the success of the local farmer’s markets, the prospering of the
Pasadena corporate competition (Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s) and the
rumored success of Isla Vista/Santa Monica co-ops. Also encouraging is
how the Puget Consumer’s Co-op has succeeded so well in a metropolitan
area such as ours. They currently have nine stores with a number of them
located deep in residential neighborhoods:
http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/
— What will it take to get one started?
This is a multiple step process involving the work of a small number of
community members (first the Steering Committee, then the Board of
Directors and sub committees) with the guidance/feedback/investment of
the community and the assistance of outside professionals. First efforts
will be to gauge whether the community could support a co-op, what size
it might need to be and how the membership structure might look.
Assuming all looks good then a membership drive would be undertaken to
raise initial capital. With this capital we’ll be able to secure loans.
With funds in hand we’ll be able to search for a store manager and location.
More startup details may be found at…
http://www.foodcoop500.coop/
http://www.uwcc.wisc.edu/info/i_pages/coopdev.html

— What’s the next step?
The next step is for the committee to do research.  We have to become
knowledgeable in what it takes to get such a business off the ground,
how co-ops compare to normal grocery stores and to begin to get a handle
on financially justifying such a business.  Along the way we need to
clarify our goals and determine if it might be possible to accomplish
them by some other means – working with existing businesses for
instance.  We need to make sure there are no insurmountable obstacles to
an Altadena area co-op and prepare ourselves to present our findings to
a community meeting.

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