In one of the most rapidly gentrifying areas in New York City, a group of residents have come together to organize and open the Central Brooklyn Food Coop (CBFC). This month they announced the launch of a crowdfunding campaign with the goal of raising $25,000 by Nov, 22 to support a down-payment for a physical storefront.
At the time of publication, they have already surpassed that goal and are working to collect an addition $25,000 in order to renovate the store they plan to purchase.
This project is a “way of making ourselves visible again and saying that we have the wherewithal and ability to do for ourselves,” said Mark Winston Griffith, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, the organization incubating the CBFC. “A grocery store that is owned and operated by long term residents — well, I just can’t imagine a more powerful statement of our right to be here and to be here in the future.”
A game-changing initiative, the black-led food cooperative centers the needs of low- and moderate-income residents by offering healthy and affordable food. As a consumer-owned coop, each member will hold an equity stake in the coop and help lower operational costs through an investment fee and three hours of monthly labor.
Organizers have been laying the groundwork for the coop for six years, ensuring that the initiative involves the leadership of long-term residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights. Currently, they are seeking a location and plan to open their doors next spring. Since the coop began accepting invested members in January, 46 people have joined.
“We want our children to have a place to go where they can learn and enjoy food,” said CBFC, founding member, Rae Gomes. “We want to continue this effort to support black farmers and other farmers of color. We want to increase political education in our community and cooperative economics in our community. This is not just a food store. This is an effort of community self-determination.”
Once open, the food coop will bring affordable, high-quality food and community programming to a neighborhood hit hard by gentrification, where four of five food stores are bodegas. It will partner with local farms and producers owned and run by people of color. The member-owned model — which has proven successful by the Park Slope Food Coop, founded in 1973, and similar coops throughout the country — will keep the prices of fresh produce down.
Ashleigh Eubanks of RiseBoro Community Partnership, an organizational partner to the CBFC, outlined the economics behind the project.
“When we say that we’re black-led and community-led, we don’t just mean the people who own the store,” Eubanks said. “We also mean the local business owners selling baked goods or jam. And, there are a lot of community gardeners that produce a lot of good-quality, high-volume produce to sell. We want to buy from them. It’s really about how we can leverage support for people who don’t have access to larger markets, and also going beyond Brooklyn and supporting local, small, family farms, that also struggle to compete.”
By establishing the Central Brooklyn Food Coop, residents are coming together to achieve food sovereignty in an area that has been called a “food desert.” By providing access to food that is affordable, fresh and welcoming, regardless of income, residents are taking matters into their own hands to ensure that they and their neighbors are nurtured and celebrated through food. This crowdfunding campaign is the CBFC’s first major community fundraising project and public push.
Bianca Bockman is Food Justice Program Director at RiseBoro, an organizational partner to the Central Brooklyn Food Coop.