by Mia Hanneken
HAPPY NATIONAL CO-OP MONTH!
October is National Co-op Month! There are thousands of co-ops out there, but what exactly is a co-op? How is a food co-op any different than a conventional grocery store? Let’s jump into the world of co-ops to better understand their role and importance particularly in the local economy.
WHAT IS A CO-OP AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT?
Co-operatives, or co-ops, come in a variety of forms. There are electric co-ops, housing co-ops, education co-ops, and, of course, food co-ops. There’s plenty more than this short list; just about any business can be a cooperative, but let’s start with the difference between a co-op and a standard operated business.
A standard business is typically owned by an exclusive, small group of people, or sometimes one single person. A co-op, however, is owned by its workers or its consumers. Common Ground is a consumer co-op, owned by thousands of community members in the Champaign-Urbana area and beyond.
Because Common Ground is community-owned, there’s no exclusivity in who buys into the Co-op. One of our cooperative principles includes open and voluntary membership, meaning anyone can own a share of the Co-op.
HOW IS A FOOD CO-OP DIFFERENT THAN A REGULAR GROCERY STORE?
A food co-op is particularly special compared to a regular grocery. First and foremost, as mentioned above, food co-ops are owned by their community, rather than an exclusive group of people, or even a single person. Food co-ops are governed by a Board of Directors, similar to a non-profit, though most food co-ops are actually for-profit businesses. This Board of Directors is elected by the owner base, giving the community a voice in who runs the co-op.
Just as importantly as who owns the co-ops is what's stocked in the store. Food co-ops strive to provide the tastiest, most nutritional local foods possible. At Common Ground, we have nearly 100 local producers located within 100 miles of the Co-op. Imagine the amount of business being given to these local farmers and producers, keeping more money in our immediate location than any other grocery store. Co-ops seek to feed their local community with foods sourced from their local farms in order to keep the maximum amount of money in their local economy.
WHY OWN A SHARE OF THE CO-OP?
Why would someone want to own a share of Common Ground? We could talk about the owner perks, like special discounts on specific items or Owner Appreciation Days, but what ownership really comes down to is community. Common Ground exists to be the center of the vibrant community that is Champaign-Urbana. When you buy into the Co-op, you’re actively deciding to participate in the community by supporting a community-owned business, choosing local foods, participating in events like our Owner Election or Ice Cream Social, and funding local non-profits through Round Up For Good.
Co-ops are a foundational piece to both the global economy and the local community. There are countless cooperative businesses out there whose sole purpose is to provide the community with the highest quality services or goods. For us, it’s local and organic food. We believe in healthy food for all, and through our cooperative model, we’ve served the CU area for 46 years and the momentum to keep going!
Happy National Co-op Month!
Want to learn more about owning a share of Common Ground? Click here!