Lombard residents envision co-op food store
Kathy Nash moved from Urbana to Lombard three years ago, but she still misses one aspect of her former home: the local co-op food store.
Nash and her husband, Jeremy, are beginning the process of creating a food co-op in Lombard by conducting an online survey and gathering a group of volunteers.
The store they envision would sell locally grown foods in the summer and organic produce in other months; offer resources about nutritious eating; and be owned by area residents whose one-time purchase of a share would give them a say in what the store sells. It would be open to the public without membership fees, but owners would receive extra perks and discounts.
As she tries to get the co-op started, Nash, 36, said she's prepared for the question "What is a co-op and how is it different from a supermarket?"
"At first glance, they look the same," she said. "But co-ops are businesses that are run jointly by our owners," so shoppers, not corporations, choose which products are available.
Starting such a cooperative food store could take between one and three years, Nash said. But the possibility of having a co-op that offers organic foods and local produce when possible is worth the work of recruiting members, gaining support from community leaders, budgeting and finding a location, she said.
The Lombard area's increasing interest in eating local decisions has surprised Nash a bit, but she said it makes her think a co-op could just be a viable idea.
"There really does seem to be a growing trend and enthusiasm about knowing your food," Nash said. "My husband and I have always been really interested in food and where it comes from and how it was grown."
When the couple lived in Urbana, Jeremy Nash ran the organic bakery at the natural food store Strawberry Fields. The duo also volunteered with Common Ground Food Co-op, which ran the community food shop Nash remembers so fondly.
Without a co-op in Lombard, the Nashes find themselves shopping at three or four stores to track down all the foods they want. Their online questionnaire, called the DuPage Shoppers Survey, asks others if they do the same. The survey also asks what products people buy from their main grocery store and whether they'd be interested in a co-op with features such as an in-house deli and bakery or an educational component.
Lombard local food enthusiast Emily Prasad and DuPage County Sierra Club leader Lonnie Morris also have been involved in the early stages of co-op planning, which began in mid-May.
Nash said she hopes those people and more will take the DuPage Shoppers Survey and consider volunteering to help establish the co-op. Anyone interested in helping can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
"It would really be nice for there to be a one-stop shop here in Lombard," Nash said. "One of the great things to us about having a co-op is the fact that our community members will have an input into what the store looks like."