"USDA PROMOTES FOOD CO-OP"
Originally Published in “The Intelligencer” January 22, 2015 ; Written by Peg Quann – Staff Writer
Like the produce it offers, the Doylestown Food Co-op wants consumers to know it’s fresh and growing – providing an alternative way to shop that supports local farmers and businesses.
And shoppers don’t have to be members to make purchases.
“Everyone can,” said Lisa White, director and president of the co-op in describing who can buy its products.
The co-op recently acquired its first grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to promote its success. The $38,746 award will help it implement an integrated marketing campaign.
White gave a tour of the 1,400-square-foot shop Wednesday, showing a surprising variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables, meats, cheese, milk and eggs. There are also organically grown foods brought in from farms around the world that abide by fair trade agreements and treat workers justly.
The store sells a lot of locally roasted coffee, both by the pound and the cup. Store manager Francine Gindi is always on the lookout for new products to feature, said White.
The organization was founded by a group of neighbors who wanted fresh food on their tables. White admits that when it comes to food, she’s picky. “I’m a devoted cook and a devoted eater, devoted to the best quality, best tasting food,” she said.
The store opened last winter, a milestone for the co-op which formed over the past five years. It started with about 85 members but has grown to 500 members who get discounts and benefit from special promotions for their support. The fee to become a member is $360 or $100 over four years or $20 for 20 months. Should the co-op become profitable, the members will receive dividends based on the extent of their purchases at the store, White explained, while again stressing that shoppers don’t have to be members to purchase at the store or even receive some of its discounts.
As she shopped, Kathy Christie, of Chalfont, admitted she was impressed. “It’s my first time; I like it so far,” she said.
“It’s the only food co-op in Bucks County,” said Jenna Bozzi, of Bensalem, a spokeswoman for the organization.
More and more food shoppers are into reading labels when they go to the supermarkets to see the nutritional information and what goes into a product. “We read the labels for you,” White said of the co-op’s supplies. “If it’s not local, it is organic. If it’s local, we’ll let you know how it’s produced,” she added.
A wide selection of locally milled flours and other grains as well as spices and herbs are sold at the store, along with natural cleaning products.
White said the members were “grateful and very excited” to be awarded the Local Food Promotion Program grant from the USDA. “Not only will this grant enable us to reach more members of our community to welcome them into our grocery store to shop, but also to educate our shoppers about the many health benefits associated with eating local products.”
Some products may cost more than in national stores, but others are as reasonable, especially considering their freshness and the support they give to local growers, White said. The store also hosts events to tout new products or discussions on nutritional topics.
For example, in February, chocolates made with locally produced honey will be featured.
“That’s the February Valentine special,” Bozzi said.
The co-op store is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call the store at 215-348-4548.
** Peg Quann: 215-345-3179; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @pegquann