WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Macomb Food Co-op Growing Local Economy

May 13, 2015

The Macomb Food Co-op's online market started operating in April 2014. The organization said it's taken in nearly $42,000 since then and returned more than $34,000 to local producers.

“And these are dollars that go directly to the producers and they keep our food dollars in our community,” said Jeanie Davenport, Americorps VISTA volunteer for the co-op.

She said one of the producers is from Carthage, another is from LaHarpe, and the rest are based in the Macomb area. The market has featured beef, poultry, eggs, herbs, and preserved foods, plus non-edible items such as peacock feathers and alpaca fiber products.

The online market is open to those who own shares in the Macomb Food Co-op. Others can give it a try for a month. After that, they must become a member to continue.

“We’ve had many people try shopping at the market and they’ve liked it so much that they have actually joined the co-op,” Davenport said.

Items can be ordered over the weekend and picked up Wednesday afternoons at 211 South McArthur Street. The building is owned by McDonough Telephone Cooperative and has been provided rent-free to the food co-op for the past year.

Staff the Store

Jeanie Davenport at the Macomb Food Co-op's table at the Macomb Farmer's Market (file photo).
Credit Rich Egger

The Macomb Food Co-op would like to build on the success of its online market by opening a “mini-store.” It hopes this will give people a taste (the food co-op’s pun, not ours) of what a food co-op can offer the community.

But the group will soon be short staffed. Funding for Davenport’s VISTA position ends in August, and the organization’s other VISTA volunteer left in March. So the organization is now trying to raise money to bankroll a couple paid positions, one full-time and the other part-time.

“(The full-time job) would be 35 hours a week and that would be a market manager. That person would run the online market and help develop the mini-store,” said Davenport.

“The other person would be a 15 hour (per week) job and that person would do outreach, speak to community organizations about the co-op and answer emails and that kind of thing.”

The goal is to raise $17,100. That would pay half the cost of the two employees. Davenport said the money can come through donations to the food co-op or through the purchase of shares. Owners are now allowed to acquire up to ten shares. Previous Illinois law limited owners to five shares.

The co-op is also seeking additional volunteers to serve on committees, help with specific projects, and/or provide assistance with marketing, grant writing and accounting.