I happened to come across a Facebook page called the Oak Park Food Co-op and it piqued my curiosity. 


I'm not exactly sure what a food co-op entails, but they have one in Logan Square called the Dill Pickle. Based on what I was able to figure out from some of the articles I read, it's a community owned grocery store. It sounds like an interesting concept, but given that Oak Park has tons of grocery options already, is the feel-good factor enough to make something like this succeed?


What do you guys think of the idea of a food co-op in Oak Park and do you think it would do well our village despite the stiff competition for our grocery dollars? 

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Comment by Jenny Jocks Stelzer on February 9, 2012 at 3:50pm

Becca and all,

First, thanks for starting this and getting people talking about the co-op idea! Second, in the interest of full-disclosure, I am one of the people who have started seriously discussing a food co-op for NE OP and the Austin neighborhood (I created the facebook page). Third, to address your point, Becca, we don't intend to  "compete" with the larger grocers, for whom price and convenience come first, for your "grocery dollars." Rather, we want to help facilitate a cultural shift away from reluctant acceptance of the "realistic" grocery options we have. We love Oak Park and we want to build our community in a way that is co-operative, sustainable, and accessible (by location and cost) to those who might not have the resources that we have. We hope to do this by creating a new way to buy, grow, cook, preserve, and share food! 

Comment by Casey Cora on February 9, 2012 at 2:45pm

Has anyone else used Irv & Shelly's Fresh Picks? It's not a co-op, it's a CSA. (Maybe those terms are loosely-interchangeable, I'm not really sure.) We've used their Groupon and a gift certificate to make purchases. Each time, the delivery has been prompt and the produce has been great, although some may take exception with, say, Florida oranges getting the "local" tag. They also offer dairy, eggs and grass-fed meats and poultry, which we haven't tried yet. 

Anyway, just throwing it out there for discussion. 

Comment by Paul N on February 9, 2012 at 10:48am

No, no, not directed at anyone here. Price was mentioned here a couple times, though, and I've been hearing that as the major complaint from those who would otherwise shop local, or avoid big box joints. I'm just saying that I think there's appreciable value in that extra cost. I certainly don't begrudge anyone shopping where they currently shop, any more than I begrudge somebody driving a gas-guzzler, or voting Republican. :^)


Pioneer
Comment by Paul on February 9, 2012 at 10:34am

Not sure if that last comment was directed at me. I wasn't maysaying a co-op, just pointing out one of the realities. Yes, I know that the lower cost paid at the register at Jewel, Caputo's, Whole foods, Trader Joe's does not include all costs -- such as energy, transportation, and long-term health costs.

 

In terms of getting local produce more than 5 or 6 months out of the year -- the Green Market is open in the city on Saturdays all through winter. There's also the local farmer's market at area churches that is open every other week or so throughout the winter. Of course, this being the midwest the "local" produce choices in winter are heavy on things from the fall harvest that can be stored, like apples, root vegetables, and the like, or things that are grown hydroponically. too bad we don't have S. California's weather.

Comment by chris ohlhoff on February 9, 2012 at 10:32am

I'm not about to begrudge anyone in our neighborhood making their food purchasing decisions based on costs and affordability. It's a diverse neighborhood and I wouldn't assume anyone's values or income mirror mine, I just know that I value spending more to know who grew my food and how far it traveled to get to me, and I think plenty of other folks in OP do too, based on the crowds I see at the market every Saturday AM.

Comment by Paul N on February 9, 2012 at 10:24am

I'm always struck when someone shoots down an idea like this with the comment that the prices are likely to be higher. You know what costs more than I can afford? The current consumerism that always chooses cheap over responsible, or sustainable, or healthy. Bring on the co-op.  Let the naysayers shop at the local Safeway (Dominick's) or SuperValu (Jewel) subsidiaries. I'll pay for what I get, and get what I pay for.

Comment by chris ohlhoff on February 9, 2012 at 9:26am

I think the possibility of a food co-op in NE OP is pretty exciting. I go to the farmer's market every Saturday morning, wouldn't it be great to have that kind of local produce selection outside of just that 5 hour weekly window for those 5 or 6 months out of the year? Plus, NE OP would certainly benefit from some healthier food options if the co-op were to offer some ready-made or prepared stuff. I'm thinking coffee and baked goods, maybe some bread and soup, instead of the current chinese food, jerk chicken, and dominos pizza options. I'm all for it.


Pioneer
Comment by Amanda on February 9, 2012 at 9:05am

I agree that I'd welcome more choice. I actually reluctantly shop at each of the places I shop for groceries. None of them are my first choice, just where I end up because they are my only choices. I'd love a co-op and have said so before here. Not sure of the details of running a co-op, but I'm really concerned about where my food comes from.


Pioneer
Comment by Paul on February 9, 2012 at 7:41am

15 or 20 years ago, I was part of a milk co-op in Oak Park. A dozen or so families all had a "share" in a Wisconsin dairy farm and every week one family in the co-op would drive up to Wisconsin to pick up gallon jars of unpasteurized milk. The best milk I've ever had, too. But, obviously very labor intensive and only borderline legal (it might be completely illegal to do something like that, now).

 

A co-op, by its nature, is very labor intensive -- the people who shop there also are the deciders, so it's a big committment of time AND money (because a co-op is likely never going to be cheaper than a regular grocery store).

 

I also remember the whole foods/health food store that was on Oak Park Ave., next to where Erik's deli is. Before Whole Foods came, it was the only place outside of the city in the area to get organic food. but they closed within a couple of weeks of Whole Foods opening, because they could not compete on price, selection, or presentation.

Comment by Susan PO on February 9, 2012 at 7:27am

I'm moving to OP later this year and have been wondering about sources for local (as local as it gets in the city?!) produce/dairy, etc. I'm excited to hear about this possible co-op! I agree about how it can create community and serve as more than a place to shop for food - that is certainly what I have seen.

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