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Advocates say grocery cooperatives could be key in fighting hunger in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – City leaders are learning about a possible new solution to fight hunger within the St. Pete community by supporting the grocery cooperative business model.

Advocates say a co-op could help lower the price of high-quality, locally-grown produce while boosting business for mom-and-pop shops.

The One Community Grocery Co-op began forming in south St. Petersburg in 2017.

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After a long history of big box store closures and failed agreements, residents started demanding for control of their own food security, according to One Community Grocery Co-op.

“A food co-op that would be for and by the residents of south St. Petersburg, where one-member one-vote, not one-dollar one-vote, would be the business model,” the website states.

One Community Grocery Co-op has since been growing, slowly but surely, driven by their mutual aid model of cooperative development. They are now seeking 300 members in order to advance to phase two of our development plan.

FOOD CO-OPS

A food co-op is essentially a grocery store that’s owned by the people who shop there, according to Taste of Home.

Members get to decide what foods and products are stocked on the shelves, where those items are purchased and what quality standards both products and vendors have to meet

Typically, co-ops aim to offer high-quality foods at fair prices — for shoppers and producers. Doing business this way helps keep money in communities by supporting local growers, mom-and-pop vendors, according to Taste of Home.

Currently, 134,650 people don’t have enough to eat in Pinellas County. That is a little more than 14% of the population, according to Feeding Tampa Bay.

Also, nearly 25% of Pinellas County Community Health Needs Assessment survey respondents had no place to go for food when money was tight, according to the Florida Department of Health.

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