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Gateway Food Initiative launches member-owned coop on St. Paul's East Side

A group of community members from St. Paul’s East Side are making progress on a plan to set up a new food coop in the neighborhood.

(See The Line’s earlier story on the effort here.)

In recent months, the Gateway Food Initiative, which is doing the legwork to establish the coop, has formally incorporated as a nonprofit, according to Stephanie Harr, a spokesperson for the organization.

She explains that Gateway is the umbrella organization for the for-profit coop. Members can pledge $90 for a lifetime membership; they're buying shares in the business and they split the profits. "A lot of people don't understand that it's a for-profit, but that's what a coop is. It's owned by the members," Harr says. 

Right now the coop is in what’s known as the “organizing phase,” she explains.

In this early stage, Gateway needs to fund a feasibility study. This involves bringing in a consultant to evaluate the market, including scoping out possible locations for a coop. “It’s a necessary piece of the puzzle,” and also a “normal part of the process for coops that are starting up.”  

This Thursday, the coop will host a kickoff celebration at 7 p.m. at the Water and Oil Gallery in St. Paul. It’s a way to help spread the word and get community input, Harr says.

So far, the coop has raised $3,000 toward its goal of $10,000. It also hopes to draw 300 members before it opens. “It’s important it be driven by the community,” Harr says.   

Besides filling a void on the East Side in terms of fresh fruits and vegetables, the coop will be an economic engine for the community. The fact that it’ll be member-owned is also a way to bring the community together, she says. “The vision is for a place not only to buy food but to meet others,” including through educational programs.   

“A lot of people are excited about having it,” she says. As it is, “Many people prefer to leave the neighborhood to shop at a coop.”  

It takes between two and five years to get a coop off the ground. “We’re still in the first year, so there’s a way to go,” she says.  

Source: Stephanie Harr, Gateway Food Initiative
Writer: Anna Pratt
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