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Co-op supports local growers and families

Anna Boarini | Monday, April 4, 2011

The Monroe Park Grocery Co-op, a co-op created by students through a theology class, had its first market day at the Our Lady of the Road Catholic Worker House Saturday.

Sophomore Kathryn Chew said the class, “Synergos: The Theology of Food Co-Ops,” helped connect Catholic tradition with food. The class was designed to help get this food co-op off the ground.

“People in Monroe Park have trouble getting access to healthy food,” Chew said. “They have to take the bus and then carry their groceries home, so they can’t always buy a lot. We are trying to get local growers to get the food to a reasonable location.”

Professor Margaret Pfeil and Bert Fitzgerald, who works with the Catholic Worker House, led the group of students in their initiative.

All of the students were separated into groups. The students were given different tasks to help the co-operative grow. Chew is a member of the communications group, whose job is to help spread the word about the project by designing the group logo and signs to advertise the project. Other groups worked in community outreach, going door-to-door asking what services the community wanted or helping get local growers and farmers involved.

“Our class really helped by doing a lot of the logistics and planning, like building a website and business plan,” Chew said. “This co-op has been in the process for awhile and our class was designed to get more people aware.”

The first market day went well and Chew said the class hopes the project will continue to grow. All of the foods offered are low cost and healthy, and include staples from five food groups. Some essential household items will also be available for purchase and the market day will be able to replace trips to a large grocer for three weeks a month.

“Everything is still in the making, but there were a lot of students who came out for CommUniversity to help for the first day,” Chew said.

To make this truly a community activity, anyone who wants to become a member of the co-op has to donate two to three hours of their time each month, Chew said. Eventually, market day will become a place for community bonding and will include food demonstrations, recipe sharing and maybe even local bands.

“Our goal is really to have the people in the community take over this project,” Chew said.