So much has happened/is happening with the Allied Community Coop that it’s hard to keep up with reports, but I’ll try…
Shortly after our Allied Coop kickoff at Taste of Allied we learned that the neighborhood pharmacy and store Walgreen’s would be leaving the neighborhood soon.
Unfortunately, Walgreen’s is the only place left there selling anything like food, and the food sold at Walgreen’s is not sufficiently nutritious or priced appropriately to meet people’s grocery needs.
So the food desert situation that was already urgent has become more of an emergency.
Allied Coop would like to help! Our mission is the overall health and wellness of the neighborhood and you can’t get closer to that than food.
So we’re taking a bit of a detour from our PowerTime energy project to focus on how we can cooperate to get fresh healthy affordable food into the neighborhood.
We’ve spoken with managers and staff at Willy Street Coop and they’d love to help us! Our dream is to partner with them and many others to create a neighborhood center/neighborhood-scale grocery, starting with a buying club and organized ride shares to help with people’s immediate needs while we build capacity for a store owned by and for the neighborhood.
There are a lot of things in the works, changing day by day. So we’ll need to be very agile and ready to roll with things. And we’re feeling pretty hopeful. On Monday Oct. 20 three of us from Allied Coop attended a meeting with Mayor Soglin, city staff, and other stakeholders and got a promising reception to our ideas for neighborhood community economic development. More on that later as we learn how it will play out…
We hosted a Town Hall meeting on Friday October 17 in order to learn what neighbors and potential partners would like to make happen. We used the training we received from Art of Hosting and formatted it as a Pro Action cafe. It was really well attended and really fruitful. Here are the notes in their entirety (please read them if you’re working on this project), and here are some highlights:
Participants were asked to introduce themselves and give brief comments on their particular interests:
• We need to improve pedestrian safety during the construction, especially before winter makes it worse.
• Concern about the lack of a pharmacy and a grocery
• Need access to food when we need it, not limited to certain days/hours
• We may need to fight for a store
• Second Harvest’s removal of the mobile pantry is a problem
• The Fresh Market truck didn’t work out too well
• If we own the store, and the community works at the store, it will help stop theft
• We need a spokesperson, who can speak for everyone
• We need to organize
Then we split into tables of 5 people apiece, and each group discussed the following questions, changing tables between questions so everyone was with a different group each time. The questions were:
What can we do right now?
What could we do in the long run?
What are you willing to do, or to ask someone you know to do?
The short-term and long-term goals and action steps that emerged were:
- Create survey for the neighborhood, about shopping preferences and habits. Cassandra will create this and is starting it now.
- Organize the neighborhood. We will host a monthly workshop/discussion to move this forward consistently. They will be the third Saturday of each month, 12-1:30pm, location TBA. The first will be November 15. In addition, Florenzo will be an active advocate and Alderperson Maurice Cheeks will advocate for us in city government.
- Organize ride shares to stores. Katy will help as a driver
- Secure subsidized cab rides for people needing them to shop
- Work with NIP and Green Cab to get vehicles for shopping excursions
- Work to get gas cards for ride sharing and buying club
- Work to get surplus food from Epic and CAC gardens, others. Joe will help with this
- Conduct outreach with pharmacies and residents to coordinate alternatives for obtaining medications
- Get more people to help coordinate the free sandwich program currently offered, to add more capacity and serve more people
- Secure donations from corporations and organizations to help fund these efforts. Laurie offered to help with this
- Get policy makers to recognize food as a right
- Create a Coop grocery store with a pharmacy!
- Emulate Walnut Way in Milwaukee
- City staff working to get discount grocer in Walgreen’s space
- Work with Willy Street Coop to create neighborhood coop business incubator
- Secure city policies and incentives to bring businesses to Allied
- Tell a new story of the Allied Drive neighborhood
Willy Street Co-op is willing to put “boots on the ground” to help start a grocery and Anne Reynolds of UW Center for Cooperatives will help with coop development, and will advocate for us on the Food Policy Council.
Cassandra will write a survey (more notes on the flip charts) and work with Ruth Rohlich to get it translated. Stephanie asked people to volunteer to go door-to-door.
The issue should go before the Allied Task Force, and Barry will take it there.
Alice will help in any way possible, as will many of the participants.
November 15, Noon – 1:30, meet to develop a plan
Allied Coop Board meets first Thur. each month, 2-4pm. Whole group discussions/workshops 3rd Saturday each month, 12-1:30pm, location TBA.
Thanks for reading! We’re feeling hopeful, and alive with possibilities. We’ll be looking for your support and encouragement as we go.