New food co-op identifies Hilltop as future location for grocery store

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A new food co-op, newly minted as a fully-formed Washington state nonprofit, made a recent announcement that after months of gathering data, meeting with community leaders and engaging its Tacoma-based membership, it has selected the Hilltop/Central neighborhood as the future home for a new ethically-sourced and local grocery store.

“We incorporated as a nonprofit last fall and began accepting memberships before Christmas,” said the co-op’s Board President Chrissy Cooley. “This picking of a location and a neighborhood we think will jumpstart memberships and get people energized to join.”

At press time, the co-op’s membership stood at 34. The co-op’s goal is to reach 250 members before collaboration begins on selecting a physical address for the store. By the time doors open, which could be as soon as next year, Cooley said the co-op would like to reach 1,500 members.

The next goal is to select a name that represents the co-op. Members in January narrowed a list of 20 names down to four finalists: The Co-op, Grit City Co-op, Co-op Tacoma, and City of Destiny Co-op. Members are encouraged to vote on the co-op’s Facebook site Tacoma’s Food Cooperative, or by e-mailing tacomacoop2016@gmail.com. Only votes from active members who join by March 18 will be counted toward the final vote. A lifetime membership is $100 or a first of four $25 annual installments. A final name will be announced at a naming party from 2-4 p.m. on March 18 at Red Elm in Hilltop.

Cooley said members will receive in-store discounts and access to member-only events, to start.

“We would like to hear from members about what are the other perks they would like that are Tacoma-related,” Cooley said.

Cooley said that what sets apart a co-op from a regular grocery store is the community aspect, and that, she said, will be a significant focus of this co-op.

“We want to hear from members on what makes a community co-op,” she said. “We heard education is big; we’ve heard affordability needs to be paramount so that we’re paying our farmers adequately but making sure people can shop there and feed their families; and making healthy eating really easy, so whether that is recipe cards or offering grab-and-go foods.”

Ariana Haidari, who arrived in Tacoma a little over a year ago from New Hampshire, said as a registered dietician, she was drawn to the food-equity related focus of the co-op.

“What food is available to people is really important,” said Haidari, a co-op board member. “So, if people have an option to buy closer to the source and it supports the farmer and the people that are looking for that food, then that’s an important relationship. A huge focus of ours is on local agriculture.”

Haidari said a common question that members ask when they join is where will the store be located. With a neighborhood selected and membership rising there is momentum now to collaborate more specifically on an address.

“We want your input now,” she stressed to co-op members.

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