A large crowd turned out for a meeting at the Effingham Public library Monday night regarding the possibility of opening a grocery co-op in Effingham. The meeting was organized by Heartland Health Foods owner Joe Cooper who originally considered a co-op business model when first planning for his shop in 2010 before settling on single ownership. According to him, Monday’s meeting was to explore the possibility of a grocery co-op in Effingham and to gauge interest.
Jacqueline Hannah, Assistant Director for the Co-op Initiative, presented information why communities want co-ops and some of the steps needed to establish one.
According to Hannah, the process isn’t easy. It can take up to 10 years along with a significant financial investment from the community. But ultimately, she said that the process was rewarding. Because a co-op is owned by a group of community members, owners get to vote on what the store sells and what to do with profits.
Audience members at Monday’s meeting asked questions about food costs, locally sourced foods, and services that they would like see at a local co-op. Hannah said that the next step is to form a group of volunteers who would survey the community to see if there’s interest and begin seeking out funds to conduct a market study to determine the viability of a food co-op in the area. According to her, if there is a compelling reason to get the community involved with a co-op, it could happen if Effingham.