The Grassroots Grocery window decal
ALTON — Grassroots Grocery, Alton’s local cooperative grocery store, will be holding a grand opening celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony Sunday, Oct. 25.
The grocery, which is dedicated to providing fresh and local foods and health products, opened its doors Aug. 22 to the public after reaching its fundraising goal of $50,000. The nonprofit store is guided by the Community Cultivators, who will distribute the store’s founding members their fundraising-related perks, such as member baskets, T-shirts and membership cards, at Sunday’s event.
The Community Cultivators will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:30 a.m. featuring brief speeches by the mayor of Alton, the founders of the co-op and residents. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. there will be coffee, hot cocoa, cider and snacks outside as well as a pumpkin-painting activity. The event is free and open to the public.
At 11 a.m., the store will open for normal business hours featuring special item discounts and sales. There will be extra loaves of fresh bread on hand, new bulk items in stock, and reasonably priced local seasonal items.
“There will be opportunities to learn about the vendors that supply the store with local goods and produce,” volunteer Christine Favilla said. “It is sure to be a fun event for the whole family.”
The store, located at 415 Ridge St. in a neighborhood classified as a USDA food desert, and is the area’s first cooperatively owned grocery store. It aims to serve neighbors who need access to fresh healthy food and patrons who place a premium on local and organic food.
The store also hopes to be a boon to farmers and artisans. It carries more than 40 local farmers’ and producers’ products, including health and beauty items as well as produce, dairy and healthy snacks.
“Any venue trying to connect directly to farmers, and educate the local community about the bounty from their own foodshed, is going to provide an invaluable service,” said Blaine Bilyeu of Papa’s Pasture. The Staunton company offers “individual premium cuts of Berkshire pork from hogs raised on green pasture, without subtherapeutic antibiotics, or growth promoters.” “I can hardly wait to see how well (Grassroots Grocery) does.”
Steve Johnson of Bunkhouse Joe’s in Fieldon echoes the sentiment.
“We are excited to be affiliated with Grassroots and very optimistic that it will be a huge success,” Johnson said.
Bunkhouse Joe’s offers locally roasted organic and fair trade coffee available in bags of ground and whole bean — a perfect fit for Grassroots Grocery.
“Our company has grown a local customer base that recognizes the value of local and fresh,” Johnson said.
In addition to offering healthy organic and locally grown food, the endeavor has also placed a priority on educating the public about the importance of fresh foods and how to work with and prepare them by offering classes in cooperation with local health and nutrition experts. They are offering 10 free classes on nutrients and meal planning taught by Certified Health Coach, Shirlie Canup. “Great Grains and Healthy Plant Protein” will be offered at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21 , and repeating at 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
The store is open to the general public but operates as a cooperative grocery, meaning individuals may become member-owners of the store. The members can participate in the store’s democratic process while accessing some of the store’s additional benefits such as a 10 percent discount on purchases and the opportunity to place special orders. Grassroots Grocery will be governed by an Advisory Council elected by the members — nominations are due Nov. 22.
Through their charitable policy, residents who face food insecurity will qualify for the same 10 percent discount given to members with no annual fee. Qualifications include: households on public assistance (receiving SNAP, WIC, Medicare/Medicaid, free or reduced lunch program or unemployment benefits), low-income households earning up to 125 percent of the Illinois poverty level (threshold for a family of four is earning less than $29,812.50), and residents of low-income senior assisted living facilities.
Another element of the charitable policy is the opportunity for individuals earning between 125 to 200 percent of the state poverty level to earn their membership by volunteering two hours per month at the store. That threshold for a family of four is earning less than $47,700 per year.
The store will strive for a “zero-waste” policy by placing items in a discounted color tag system toward the end of their shelf life.