The Dorchester Community Food Co-Op is pushing ahead with its mission to bring affordable, accessible, and nutritious food to the greater Dorchester community. Now, as it works to raise money for its Vision Fund, the group is ever closer to its goal of having a bricks and mortar storefront.
“This fund will build the organizational capacity to move us through the year,” said Jenny Silverman, project manager for the group.
So far the group has received a $12,500 matching grant from the Boston Impact Initiative, the non-profit arm of the Impact Realty Partnership, to help bolster its Vision Fund. Now it must raise the other $12,500 by April 15 to use the money. Currently it has raised about $8,000.
But while the Vision Fund might be the group’s next step, it is certainly not the most exciting news the group plans to share.
Currently leadership in the organization is identifying partners and locations for a physical store, with a site possibly being named in the next month. The location would be the culmination of everything members have worked for over the past few years.
“Right now we’re working to finalize decisions about a site and bring in development partners,” said Silverman. “Once we finalize partners and a site we can begin the process of fundraising, designing, and constructing the co-op.”
Silverman said the idea of a community owned store is gaining traction in the neighborhood. So far 250 people have bought into the idea of the store with $100 memberships, but the co-op is still far away from the $2-million mark organizers hoped to reach to open a store.
“All of us have to spend money on food, we want that money to stay in the community,” said Silverman.
Nutritious and fresh foods are big motivators for the organization that plans to put a store in the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, but affordability, something not always associated with organic and natural foods, is also important.
“The cost is critical,” said Silverman. “We’re not just going to open the store and have the price be what the market can bear."
Using “best practices” established by other co-ops, a little creativity, and selling bulk items, Silverman said affordability, quality, and community are all attainable.
“Making it affordable with a focus on healthy local food is in all of our interests,” said Silverman. “We want to be more than just a source of food, we want to create a hub for the community.”
Come the end of 2014, Silverman said the organization hopes to make its vision a reality with a storefront owned and operated by the community.
“This vision [for nutritious and quality food] is important in a diverse community like Dorchester. It’s not just for a high-income or gentrified community,” said Silverman. “We absolutely need healthy food in Dorchester and we think we can do it.”
Those interested in finding out more about the group, it’s programs, or how to donate to its Vision Fund are encouraged to visit its website.