Central Brooklyn Meals Co-op’s aim is to feed longtime locals

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Locals want to start a food cooperative for Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and Brownsville – by and for low-income Brooklyn residents who are hungry for inexpensive fresh food.

The Central Brooklyn Food Co-op, a Schwarz-run, consumer-owned cooperative, launched its crowdfunding campaign on Wednesday to sign its expected 2020 opening in a location yet to be determined.

The goal is to raise $ 25,000 by November 22nd and recruit 250 members by the end of the year. By Thursday afternoon, the effort had raised more than $ 11,000 from 175 contributors.

Brooklyn has other food cooperatives – best known in upscale Park Slope.

The Central Brooklyn Cooperative, however, has a mission that is both social and culinary: to empower people who have suffered years of economic divestment in their neighborhood – and who are now at risk of displacement when more affluent outsiders move in.

“Central Brooklyn has been through so much redlining and now gentrification that there are no truly affordable food options in the area, whether community owned or community-owned,” said Bianca Bockman, director of food justice the Riseboro Community Partnership program, the city said.

It’s been five years since, after years of discussion, the Brooklyn Movement Center began working with local residents to work out a plan for a food cooperative.

“This is a conversation that has been going on in the community for decades,” said Bockman.

According to Mark Winston Griffith, executive director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, the main mission of the Central Brooklyn Food Co-op is to promote racial justice and to give it a “conscious political advantage.” (Griffith is also a member of THE CITY’s Board of Directors.)

The cooperative will sell fresh food with an emphasis on organic vegetables and vegan options while delivering more traditional food, according to Griffith and Bockman. Members are required to volunteer two hours a month to keep operating costs down.

People who receive public support can participate with a stake of $ 20. Others must raise $ 150 to become a member and be eligible for shopping.

Anyone can join, but the cooperative is primarily intended to serve low-income and low-income residents, Bockman said.

Let the concept mature

The storefront will “ideally be on the eastern border between Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights,” says Bockman, who is currently looking for a place. The money raised through crowdfunding will help open up the space, she added.

She expects the cooperative to serve as a hub for the community, offering cooking classes, farm stakes, and other programs.

The organizers hope the crowdfunding campaign will bring the cooperative closer to the finish line of an expected spring opening. “We want members to join and people to come in, donate and be a part of it,” said Bockman.

The food cooperative was first proposed in 2013 during a six-monthly grub party at the Brooklyn Movement Center Potluck event where community stakeholders discuss neighborhood social justice issues and brainstorm solutions.

Food cooperatives were already in the minds of many residents. Some looked at the Park Slope Food Coop and Greene Hill Food Co-op of Clinton Hill, while longtime Crown Heights residents of the 1970s and 1980s remembered one in the neighborhood.

“I don’t want to say a no-brainer, but it turned out to be the most suitable vehicle,” Griffith recalled of those early discussions.

By 2015, the cooperative finalized its statutes and began recruiting members. It currently has around 40 participants.

Earlier this year The project received a $ 400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which funds hyperlocal community food projects. The money, which was to be paid out over four years, gave the business the much-needed boost.

The cooperative just needs a little more time to mature.

“A large supermarket can come and settle in the neighborhood without much fanfare, but this was a grassroots democratic effort,” said Bockman. “The smartest thing is to respond to a community call about what should be done. And democracy takes time. “

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