A Word from the Board of Directors

- Andrew Muller

This year as we enter the 50th year of Common Ground Food Co-op, the Board looks back on the founding of our amazing store, and we would like to highlight one of the individuals who were instrumental in starting it.

Jim Holiman was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1935, and was a long-serving campus minister and executive director of the Illinois Disciples Foundation (IDF). He is remembered as one of the main ‘movers and shakers’ who helped get Common Ground Food Co-op (CGFC) off the Ground!


Jim Holiman wrote several accounts reflecting on the founding and history of the CGFC, which are maintained in the Champaign County Historical Archives.


In the 1970s, the area around Springfield and Wright included students living in substandard housing, retired people living on fixed incomes, and families with low incomes. A survey done for IDF by the sociology department at UIUC identified three basic needs: personal safety, transportation, and access to good food. In response, the IDF Board created a task force to come up with ideas of how the IDF could serve the area. Initially a buyer’s club, what would later become the CGFC started with Jim and other Volunteers driving to Wisconsin and procuring farm-direct foods and other products such as brown rice, kale, and tofu. Members would deliver groceries or distribute them in a church parking lot for a low membership fee of $1.


When Common Ground got its first physical location in 1984, it was only a 900-square-foot store in an empty room of the basement of the Illinois Disciples Foundation in Champaign. Equipment was either donated or hand-built by volunteers. The store was staffed by volunteers, had no storefront or sign, and deliveries were unloaded by hand through a basement window.


According to Jim’s accounts, "The Food Co-op became an organizing base for Bread for the World, the Gray Panthers, and the Champaign County Gleaning Project.... Many thousands of neighbors were involved in the NSM.... The Food Co-op was understood to be a social justice ministry emphasizing 'Food for people, not for profit.'" Jim is remembered for all his efforts in establishing and maintaining the Co-op through difficult times and is credited with often saying "It's important for communities of resistance to talk about really old things like faith, hope, and love.... People live on love, care, respect, touch, hope, faith: these are the real traditional family values."


We look forward to celebrating the 50 years that started with Jim Holiman and a group of volunteers, and has flourished into our amazing community.