Food For All: Fundraising Festivities

Food For All: Fundraising Festivities by Mia Hanneken, Education Coordinator

If you’re an owner at the co-op, you’ve probably heard of the Food For All program. As our food accessibility initiative, it provides free equity for community members unable to pay the $60 investment, alongside a 10% discount on all co+op basics and fresh produce items and free class tickets. This program is fundamental to the overarching, long-term mission of the co-op and definitely one of the most important to continue developing for the benefit of the local community. The current FFA policies are a great place to start, but it’s not our finish line. We’ve got some big plans that we are so excited about and hope you will be too.

Accessibility

We acknowledge that it’s simply not plausible for some people to get to Lincoln Square to shop at the co-op. Whether it’s long hours at work, lack of child care, immobility, or the inconvenience of public transportation, we have realized it’s time for the co-op to go into the communities. A 10% discount is great, but maybe not worth it when you have to ride two buses with three young children in tow after working 40+ hours that week. If we want our food to be for ALL, we must first and foremost, make it easily accessible to all.

So, what if the co-op was right down the street? You could take a walk with those three young kids and purchase some pantry staples and fresh vegetables for the week. We are doing just this. Starting extremely small, we’ll be contributing to Prosperity Garden’s Mobile Market on Wednesdays starting mid-June. Alongside their produce selection, the co-op will be providing a couple staple ingredient options to make meal planning easier for its customers. The first month or so, we’ll bag bulk pasta and rice to sell at the Food For All 10% discount. After gauging the interest and sales, we hope to increase our options to include beans, lentils, bulk spices and other low-cost essentials for healthy meals.

Education

Another pillar of Food For All is education. Similar to our belief that healthy food is a human right rather than a luxury, we also believe knowing what to do with your food is just as important. We have monthly Cooking Basics or Cooking Healthy on a Budget classes that are free to the public. They provide cost efficient recipes for nutrient-dense meals and teach fundamental skills to boost confidence in the kitchen. These classes are incredibly useful--and well attended--but we’d love to provide more free classes to guarantee equal opportunity for everyone to gain essential cooking resources.

The short-term goal is to offer two free FFA classes per month here in our classroom. As education coordinator, I also have high hopes for off-site classes. Once again, if we are working to make our food accessible to the greater community, the education on how to use it should follow suit. We want to reach out to community centers, schools, parenting groups, and the like to offer these same Food For All classes to people who may not frequent the co-op--or who may not even know about the co-op.

Affordability

Current Food For All recipients receive a 10% discount on co+op basics, and even non-Food For All recipients can benefit from co+op basics items. The selection is already pretty substantial, but we have discussed ways to expand what is considered a pantry staple. In 2017, we added all fresh produce to the co+op basics, making it eligible for the 10% discount. If we’re able to add even more products to the co+op basics list, this helps all of our customers purchase healthy food at a lower price.

Fundraisers

We have a lot of plans in the works, and among them are fundraising opportunities. Aside from our annual Plant Sale and May’s Round Up fundraisers, we’ve got a couple other tricks up our sleeve.

We are organizing a co-op trivia night! Grab a few friends, think of your best punny team name, and register on Eventbrite with a $10 donation to Food For All. Teams are limited to 5 people or less. We’ll have beer and wine available for purchase (with a valid ID, of course) and prizes for the top three teams! Trivia questions will all revolve around three themes: local, co-op, and general food & drink. Study up! We are looking forward to an evening of laughs, community building, and some friendly competition. The first trivia night will be Thursday, May 24th from 7:00-8:30pm. Help us spread the word!

The second fundraising effort is a collaborative co-op cookbook. Since Food For All is all about providing resources to the community, we’re calling on our owners to submit some of their favorite recipes. We will compile our submissions, print a simple cookbook in house, and direct all sales to our FFA budget. So crack open that old family cookbook! We’re looking for recipes that are:

  1. Budget-friendly favorites

  2. Healthy go-to recipes for when you’re short on time

  3. Family favorites or traditions that have been passed down through generations

You don’t have to be a chef to contribute to the cookbook, though. We also need submissions for a catchy title AND art to print on the cover.

All submissions can be directed to education@commonground.coop

At our co-op, we want high quality food for ALL. We want the Food For All program to be so ingrained in our co-op values that we band together to ensure this mission isn’t being pushed aside in the rush for bigger sales, better discounts, more product.  We hope you’ll consider supporting our fundraising efforts and help your community grocery store continue serving Urbana-Champaign the best we can.