Board Researches Co-op Strategies for Helping Low Income Customers

In September 2012 the Bloomingfoods member-elected board heard a report from Tim Clougher regarding the ways that other co-ops across the country are trying to meet the needs of lower income customers.

These co-ops tried to remove five major barriers to access to healthful foods.


They did this by:

1. Partnering with other local non-profit organizations who already serve low-income clientele. In one instance, this was done by providing $10 gift cards to the organizations so that they could give them to people who qualify for their programs.
2. Another co-op partnered with several organizations to provide classes for school children in nutrition and cooking. Their state-wide Iron Chef competition gives students five local ingredients and asks them to develop meals that could be easily made in large quantities at their schools. The students take home leftovers to their family as well as recipe cards for the meals they made that day and the price of the ingredients at the co-op.
3. One of the affordability programs offered by a co-op is to lower their margin on selected items that would be considered staples in many people’s diets. These "co-op basics" are marked on the shelf with a yellow tag next to the price.
4. Another co-op offers low-income buyers a one-month free membership so that they can try out shopping at the co-op.
5. Each store looks at how accessible their store is perceived to be by those who have not yet shopped there. This varies from store to store, but effort is made to welcome members of every income level and help them to feel part of the ownership team.
Bloomingfoods is always looking for ways to better your shopping experience, and looking at what other co-ops are doing across the country is one way that we become inspired to make positive changes. Seeing how other stores do it helps us to know what works and what does not work.

In October, we will be having our Annual Meeting. This is another opportunity for us to meet with attendees and gather ideas and inspirations. We hope to see you there.

by Carol Bridges, Secretary for the BCS/Bloomingfoods Board of Directors

The image here is from Mother Hubbards' Cupboard, a food pantry in Bloomington that offers nutrition and gardening classes for patrons and the general public. We post notices of these events in our Education Series, and support Mother Hubbard's at our semi-annual Truckload Sales, through the Plant a Row for the Hungry program, and with our annual Share the Harvest campaign at our registers each November. For eggplant recipes from the Hub, click here!