Healthy Food Access Programs at Neighboring Food Co-ops

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As food security has emerged as an urgent issue in our region, the member co-ops of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) have been working to develop solutions that balance financial sustainability with offering healthy affordable food, supporting local economies and building fair relationships with workers and producers.  In collaboration with the Cooperative Fund of New England, Hunger Free Vermont and the New England Farmers Union, the members of the NFCA are creating “healthy food access” programs and sharing what they have learned from existing food co-op programs–such as “Food for All,” “Co-op Basics,” “Pennywise Pantry,” “Co-op Cares,” — and creating new approaches to making healthy food and member-ownership more accessible.  Below are links to examples of these healthy food access programs, including:

1. Needs-based Discount Programs: The goal of these programs is to make fresh, healthy and local food affordable for everyone, regardless of their income. People who qualify for the program receive a discount on store purchases.

2. “Co-op Basics” Programs: Co-op Basics offers essential items at everyday low prices, discounted for all customers.  The items discounted are healthy staple items such as whole wheat flour, milk, produce and bulk dried beans.

3. In-store Educational Educational Programs: How to shop, store, and prepare healthy food on a budget.

4.  Access to Member-ownership: Programs for making member-ownership more accessible to everyone, such as long-term payment plans and using co-op patronage refunds to pay off membership.

5.  Collaboration with Local Food Security Organizations: Working with local food pantries and advocacy organizations to make healthy food more accessible.

6.  Double up Incentive Programs