Midtown Raleigh News

Volunteers are making plans for a food co-op in Southeast

A group of local volunteers hopes to develop a cooperative grocery store with a focus on healthful foods in Southeast Raleigh.

A core team of volunteers has met for more than a year and a half to refine their vision, and they shared it at the first in a series of community meetings last week. More than 30 people showed up to find out more and share their own ideas about what a co-op might look like.

The overall goal is to bring quality food to an area with a lack of grocery options, in a way that encourages community involvement. In a co-op model, all members have a say in how the organization is run.

“The notion that it be owned by the community is key,” said Zulayka Santiago, one of the volunteers.

When the community is in charge, rather than an outside group, it’s easier to ensure decisions reflect that community’s values, say the organizers. Plus, a store rooted in the community isn’t going to disappear one day.

Last year, Kroger decided to close its two grocery stores in Southeast, meaning there are few grocery options nearby, particularly for those who rely on city bus transportation.

Erin Byrd, another of the organizers, said that even if another chain grocery store comes to the area, a co-op still is a viable idea. The intention is not just to fill the gap left by Kroger but also to provide residents with more food choices and create a community gathering space.

The core team of organizers wants the membership of the co-op to reflect Southeast, both in terms of geography and the area’s racial and ethnic makeup.

Tina Quiller-Morgan, a Southeast resident who attended the meeting, said the area is ripe for an idea like a co-op because of the limited options available right now.

“We need something that’s based in the community,” she said.

The organizers cautioned at the meeting that there many steps to be completed before a co-op can open, a process that could take as long as two years. Those steps include holding more community meetings, recruiting members, drawing up bylaws and fundraising.

Amaka Flynn, who attended the meeting from nearby Garner, said she was encouraged by the enthusiasm people showed for a co-op.

“People really want this to happen,” she said.

The volunteers plan to hold another meeting in the coming weeks. For more information, contact Byrd at liberaytor@gmail.com or Santiago at zulayka2007@gmail.com.