South Philly Food Co-op raises more than $34,000 in less than a month

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The “60K in 60 Days” campaign is part of the organization’s $1.14 million campaign to open its doors in August.

South Philly Food Co-op’s capital campaign organizer and board member Emily Wyner and board president Leigh Goldenberg visit the site of the new co-op grocery store, which, after reaching its $1.14 million campaign goal in March, is set to open late next summer on the 2000 block of Juniper Street. (GRACE MAIORANO/South Philly Review)

South Philly residents will soon decide what groceries they’d like to see on local shelves.

In its latest campaign push, the South Philly Food Co-op, the only community-owned grocery store in this part of the city, recently raised close to $35,000 in less than 30 days during its autumn “$60K in 60 Days” matching member loan campaign that aims to place the organization in the final stretch of a $1.14 million effort to officially open its doors by the end of the summer.

While this million-dollar effort officially kicked off in early 2017, the South Philly Food Co-op started sprouting nearly a decade ago when neighbors with shared economic, environmental and food values gradually began collaborating.

“The mission has always been to open up a grocery store,” said Passyunk Square resident Leigh Goldenberg, president of the co-op’s board of directors who joined the organization in 2010. “We’ve always been on the path to open a physical grocery store that would be open to the public.”

“Broadly, our mission is using food as a force for good at our tables, in our communities and for our planet. I think for us, a food co-op has such power in its structure as being democratically controlled and cooperatively owned,” added Newbold resident Emily Wyner, a board member and the co-op’s capital campaign organizer. “So, in a world where I think many of us, as consumers, have perhaps less and less control and grocery stores can pop in, pop out and decide how they’re going to operate, for us, opening up a food co-op as a specific structure helps keep our dollars local, keeps our control very neighborhood-based.”

Unlike corporate grocery stores, the co-op, which is under renovation at 2031 South Juniper St., is owned by local stakeholders, or member-owners, who ultimately have influence over which products wind up on shelves, depending upon the affordability, healthiness and localness of the items.

Currently, the co-op has gained more than 960 member-owners since its inception. Now, the goal is to reach 1,000 by the time this campaign is over in mid-October. If the co-op reaches its $60K objective, an additional $30,000 of investments will be unlocked from the board. Ideally, though other sources, the comprehensive figure will be reached by March, giving the 3,300 square-foot store four months to finalize renovation, hire employees and stock products.

The co-op projects that the $1.14 million will roughly be comprised of 34 percent member loans, 28 percent institutional financing, 22 percent member equity, 11 percent grants, benefits and donations, and 5 percent vendor credit and free filled products.

South Philly Food Co-op’s board president Leigh Goldenberg and board member and capital campaign organizer Emily Wyner browse through blueprints of the new grocery store, which, after reaching its $1.14 million campaign goal in March, is set to open late next summer on the 2000 block of Juniper Street.(GRACE MAIORANO /South Philly Review)

The co-op had 600 members before even leasing the current physical location in the fall of 2016, which Wyner and Goldenberg say is a testimony to its mission.

“I think it’s powerful to know your money is making an impact, that your money is tangibly, directly building something that is right here in our community that frankly we are going to use directly ourselves,” Wyner said. “I think in many ways that’s the opportunity for people to become more invested.”

The $60K goal is part of a $750,000 effort that solely encompasses funds made by the public, including member equity and member loans. About $244,000 is left to go in this category with thousands pledged.

The co-op’s member-ownership equity investment is set at $200 per household, which can be paid in full or monthly installments.

Also, in July, the board passed a policy for a community equity fund tailored toward individuals who consider $200 to be cost prohibitive. Folks can still join at an equity investment meaningful to them, and the new fund will subsidize the balance.

“We recognize that we don’t want finances to be a barrier to someone,” Goldenberg said.

She and Wyner stressed that, unlike subsidizing money in mutual funds or the stock market, partaking in the co-op allows stakeholders to witness firsthand the impact of their sponsorship on immediate and intermediate levels.

“For folks who may be thinking about where to put their money that is not in building prisons or investing in gun-producing companies or things that perpetuate harm in our world, this is like a phenomenal opportunity to rebuild something different,” Wyner said. “(Your money) is staying right here in South Philadelphia in a way that we can see it and feel it and eat it.”

For more information on the South Philly Food Co-op, visit https://www.southphillyfoodcoop.org/.

If interested in becoming a member-owner, contact Emily Wyner at emily@southphillyfoodcoop.org.