Common Ground Food Co-op is a cooperatively owned grocery store that promotes local and organic production, fosters conscious consumerism, and builds community.
Common Ground’s 4 Ends:
- The co-op is the center of a vibrant, inclusive community
- The cooperative movement is strengthened
- The co-op serves as an educational resource on food issues
- Our local food movement is equitable, robust, and environmentally sound.
Though we are community owned, ownership is not required to shop at Common Ground!
Everyone is welcome!
Hours: 7am – 10pm Every day
Common Ground has evolved continuously since 1974. Created by the Illinois Disciples Foundation, the original intent of the Co-op was to provide food to low-income residents living in the community immediately surrounding the Co-op’s location. The organization was initially structured as a buying club, with an emphasis on economic accessibility, including the delivery of groceries door-to-door for those with limited mobility. There were no paid staff, as the work was handled entirely by volunteers.
The years that followed, Common Ground increased its emphasis on natural foods, as the country at large developed an awareness of the need for food raised without environmentally-damaging and unhealthy chemicals, and as the demographics of the membership changed. This new emphasis led to the establishment of a physical store on the first floor of the IDF building in 1984, with regular hours and inventory.
In the 1990s CGFC experienced dramatic growth in membership, and this growth necessitated certain changes in structure. Though grassroots activism still played a large role at the Co-op, and volunteer labor was still an important component of the day-to-day functioning of the store, there was a very real need for leadership and accountability. Paid staff gradually replaced volunteer labor for mission critical components of operations, an equity system was developed to replace yearly ownership fees, and financial systems and policies were instituted to ensure that the co-op operated in a solvent and more sustainable manner.
The mechanisms to ensure that members maintained democratic control of their co-operative were put into place, including bylaws which delineated the structure of the Board of Directors and procedures for elections of members to that board. In essence, the Co-op found its “cooperative identity” during these years, and began to function more along the lines of other co-ops of this time.
In recent years the Co-op has worked to attract a larger and more diverse ownership. As natural foods gained mainstream acceptance, Common Ground has been at the forefront of efforts to educate the public on such issues as the emerging organic standard, fair trade, and genetically-modified foods.
Common Ground has also become the primary channel for many local farmers to provide their goods year-round, thus serving to increase our communities’ investment in local farms that produce food in a sustainable fashion. These years have also seen an emphasis on strategic planning, infrastructure, and better business practices, with the Co-op learning from other successful cooperative grocers across the country. In 2005 Common Ground transitioned to a management structure that has led to increased profitability, less waste, and clearer decision-making processes.