The US Department for Agriculture (USDA) has awarded an US$80,000 (£65,560) grant to a Cincinnati co-operative grocer.
Apple Street Market is planning a a full-service, community and worker-owned grocery store on Apple Street in the city’s Northside neighbourhood, offering food access for the underserved neighbourhoods of Northside, South Cumminsville, Camp Washington, and College Hill.
The co-op will also support the local economy by sourcing from local producers and creating jobs in the community.
The neighbourhood became a food desert after the only grocery store in Borthside Cincinnati closed in 2013, with less than a week’s notice to the community. The city itself has 10 fewer grocery stores than the national average. Some residents have to get two busses to reach the nearest grocery store.
The project is backed by the Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative, which helps to set up worker-owned co-ops. They started with a feasibility study and surveys before deciding the project had potential to succeed.
A community owner buy-in is $100, a one-off payment. Any profits will go back to the community and to workers, with both groups members of the multi-stakeholder co-op.
The grants were open to eligible fresh food retail projects seeking financial and technical assistance to overcome the higher costs and initial barriers to entry in underserved areas. The Healthy Food Financing Initiative’s (HFFI) programme, funded by the USDA, has received more than 240 applicants from 46 states, from which it selected 23.
“Besides the convenience of shopping here for all neighbours, the owner/worker union model provides a sustaining wage, keeping the money spent at the Market within Northside and under the control of local residents/workers,” said Apple Street member Claire Darley.
“The quality of my diet would be greatly increased by grocery access,” said Tim Burns, also an Apple Street member, who is encouraging others to join.
The inaugural funding round for healthy food retail projects is administered by the Reinvestment Fund.
“Access to healthy food is about more than making sure all Americans have easy access to nutritious, affordable food – it is also about strengthening local economies and community infrastructure,” said Don Hinkle-Brown, president and CEO of Reinvestment Fund.
“The response to this funding opportunity is indicative of the immense need and the innovative approaches communities are undertaking to support equitable access to fresh, healthy food for everyone.”
The co-op has so far received $700,000 (£573,454) in grants, donations, owner loans and other pledges but it requires additional funding to take the project forward.