The Newburgh Food Co-op is aiming to create a “member-owned grocery store” in the City of Newburgh to help community members who might be facing food insecurity.
Behind the initiative is Anthony Grice, who is also a City of Newburgh council member. The creation of Newburgh’s only co-op came to fruition about a year ago. Its mission statement is to “provide people with a choice of healthy food options at affordable prices, have a communal hub space that is culturally space, teaching space for food preparation and communal dinners.”
So what exactly is a food co-op?
“The difference between a co-op and a regular business is that the residents have ownership in a co-op,” said Grice. “It is a for-profit business, but the profit goes right back into the community and the hands of the investors, or owners, and we can keep those dollars here in the community.”
Grice said, in his opinion, Newburgh has “food apartheid” when it comes to access to affordable, fresh food.
“It’s not there as much as I’d like,” said Grice. “We do have great grocery stores … but it’s not within the walking distance of half a mile.”
The issue of food insecurity doesn’t stand alone. Other factors that Grice has considered is how someone would be able to get to the food co-op, or any grocery store who is selling affordable food for that matter.
“My vision is that they are every half mile,” said Grice. “The elderly population or people who have to walk – further than that, it’s a little too far to be walking with groceries.”
The Newburgh Food Co-op is a part of the National Food Co-op Association, which shares a number of different resources including seminars and additional information. Additionally, they have been in touch with the Kingston Food Co-op who has lended itself to be an example of what could be created here.
More recently, they are creating a steering committee who will lead efforts and look closely at national food co-op guidelines. Grice has spoken to different community groups to see if they’d be interested in becoming involved, like We Are Newburgh and Melanin Unchained.
“For the Newburgh Food Co-op, it’s bigger than an elected official or any one group,” said Grice. “What I would like to do is get each of those groups to send one of those members to be on the committee and then they choose someone who will lead that effort and I will support it.”
The co-op will follow seven leading principles, which include: voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member economic participation, autonomy and independence, education, training and information, cooperation among co-ops, and concern for community.
Grice pointed out the “intentionality for concern for the community” and how if other people are doing something similar but without caring for the community, they are “just making a profit off of our people.”
Another aspect that will set the Newburgh Food Co-op apart from food distribution programs is that they will offer a teaching space for food preparation.
“People will not take [certain foods] because they don’t know how to properly cook it or what to do with it,” said Grice. “We need the education to say hey, this is how you properly cut that, clean that and cook it. They need that.”
The co-op also plans to partner with local farms, including the Downing Park Urban Farm, and local restaurants and food pantries. Our Core, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving marginalized youth in Newburgh through agricultural education, is one group that the co-op has already begun working with. Christine Hutchinson leads Our Core and Grice said they have been “very, very helpful in the co-ops effort.”
Heading into 2021, the steering committee will get the ball rolling on finding a location for the co-op with a feasibility study. Right now they are continuing to meet online. If you are interested in becoming involved with the Newburgh Food Co-op, join the Newburgh Food Co-op Organizers Facebook group.