Downtown Elgin food store co-op still in the works

Updated 7/23/2013 8:01 PM

A steering committee formed last summer with the goal establishing Shared Harvest Elgin Food Cooperative by this summer. As it turns out, it takes about three years for that to happen, said committee member Carol Rauschenberger, also an Elgin councilwoman.

However, Rauschenberger said she got positive feedback at a workshop for new food store cooperatives she attended Sunday in downstate Urbana.


"Though I want to start tomorrow, at least I know we are where Shared Harvest is expected to be at this point in the process," she said.

"Many of the others were impressed with our shareholder sales within our one-year time frame. ... We also are in a good place to apply for grants with incorporation papers, an interim board in place, bylaws and money in the bank."

So far, Shared Harvest has sold 170 shares at $100 apiece, mostly to Elgin residents but to some from as far off as St. Charles and Marengo, said steering committee member Jennifer Shroder. Under Illinois law, one individual can buy a maximum of five co-op shares.

The committee plans to apply for a $10,000 grant from Minnesota-based Food Co-op Initiative to fund a feasibility study to better shape the project, said Shroder, who is also a board member for Elgin Area School District U-46.

The co-op would feature mostly locally grown food, with the exception of foods that aren't available locally, such as bananas, she said. Committee members hope to find a downtown location for the co-op, where having adequate parking would be crucial, she said.

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The goal of a food store co-op is not to make profits -- thought that can be a byproduct -- but to make available local, sustainable and healthy foods year-round, Rauschenberger said.

Financial benefits to shareholders are usually long-term and are based one usage of the co-op, not just owning shares. "The goal is supporting a healthy community," she said.

Buying co-op shares is akin to buying membership at warehouse clubs, she said. "People don't think anything of putting $50 for Costco. (With a co-op) you're investing in your community, and you get a voice in how we do it."

If the Shared Harvest co-op never opens, shareholders would get their money back. Also, they could sell their shares back to the co-op if they move away from the area, she said.

"Food co-ops are pretty conscientious group of people. There's not a lot of recklessness involved," Shroder said.

Shared Harvest will hold its annual first shareholder meeting 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, at The Centre of Elgin, 100 Symphony Way. The meeting is open to the public. For more information you can also visit the group's Facebook page.


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