How Food Gets Cooperative

Last month I had the pleasure of visiting the Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative. What is a food cooperative? By definition it is, “food distribution outlet organized as a cooperative. Food cooperatives are usually consumer cooperatives where the decisions regarding the production and distribution of its food is chosen by its members.” (Wikipedia)

The Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative is an initiative of the Georgia Avenue Community Ministry. The initial co-op was launched in 1991 and subsequent ones came in 1994, 1999, 2000, 2008 and 2011.  The motivation for the co-op was to provide food to low income families and individuals. Currently there are 7 co-ops, 6 of which are on site at the ministry. Each cooperative has a 50 member capacity and at the time of my visit there were 300 families being served.  The goal of this co-operative is two-fold:

  1. Food Security (USDA defines this as” access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.”)
  2. Fight homelessness

So how does it all work? Like a well-oiled machine actually. I was amaze by what I saw as I sat and watched one of the cooperative meetings. The formal meetings take place every other week and usually last about 30, while the regular meetings take place every Tuesdays and Thursday (10am and 1pm respectively) and last about an hour or so. The format of the regular meetings is great. The meeting consists of important announcements, praise and worships and general fellowship. Following the meeting agenda, the food is distributed to the families with the help of the fabulous volunteers. Ms. Ella and her team members have the best “assembly-line” process I have ever seen, make the packing and distribution of the boxes appear seamless.  It was very clear that members are a community and really interact like “family.” Seeing little children running around with smiling faces created mixed emotions for me; I was happy that they were getting food, but sad that their family was in a situation where this was their primary food source.

What’s inside the box? How much does it cost? The food is divided by family size, for example a medium size family box retails at about $100. Members pay a $4 handling fee and the money collected goes back into the program. The food for the cooperative comes from the Atlanta Food Bank, Grant Gardens, and Grant Park Market. The contents consist of a range of things from canned goods, boxed items to fresh produce where specifically requested.

I strongly encourage everyone to visit this cooperative and speak with Chad Hale, you will definitely be impressed by what you see and hear. Food Insecurity and hunger is a major issue in Georgia and requires that help of all us. Take a look at a couple of startling stats:

  • 20% of Georgians – nearly 1 in 5 Georgians – are food insecure (struggling with hunger), well above the national average. (Source: Georgia Food Bank Association)
  • 28.8% of children in Georgia live in food insecure households. (Source: Georgia Food Bank Association)

Learn more about the Georgia Avenue Food Co-Operative: http://gacm.org/

 

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