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East Side community members contemplate setting up natural food coop

At a public meeting on Sept. 20, some residents of St. Paul’s East Side will float an idea for a natural foods coop.

Beth Butterfield, one of the meeting's organizers, says that she's wanted to see a coop close to home ever since she moved to the area seven years ago.

About the East Side, which is the city's largest and most diverse neighborhood, she says, “I love it. I have friends here and I want to stay. But there are things that it could have to be more attractive," such as a natural foods coop.

Earlier this summer, she started talking it over with others who share her enthusiasm. Looking at other successful examples, such as the Mississippi Market on Selby and Dale avenues in St. Paul and The Wedge in Minneapolis, they wondered, “What would it take to open one?”  

Butterfield hopes the meeting will help to provide a sense for the level of support for such a “completely grassroots undertaking,” she says.

She says the timing makes sense because more and more people are interested in local organic foods and where they come from. A local coop would also help keep dollars in the community, which is especially needed on the East Side, she says. 

A coop could include a cafe and meeting space and feature items from local youth farmers.

However, to become a reality, the coop needs a committed group of volunteers. “A coop is about member-ownership. It’s not owned by one person,” which, she says, is what makes it a challenge to organize.

From the planning to the running of such a place, “It’s not just about food. It’s about bringing people together,” she says, adding, “That really is our grander goal in this.”

Source: Beth Butterfield, East Side natural foods coop organizer
Writer: Anna Pratt
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