Cassia Herron says a community grocery store in the West End would operate almost like any Kroger, ValuMarket or Trader Joe’s. The shelves would be stocked with fruit, cereal, bread and other items. The big difference, she says, is who would control the community store.
This week, Louisvillians heard four proposals for Heritage West, the previously proposed site of the West Louisville FoodPort. Herron is among a group of residents proposing the Louisville Food Cooperative.
Herron says the co-op wouldn’t be exactly like every other grocery store — because this one, she says, would be owned by the community.
“Ownership is important because people would have control of their food system at this one particular food outlet,” Herron says.
The West End isn’t the only part of Louisville in need of more options for purchasing food. Last year, First Link closed in Phoenix Hill, east of downtown. And Old Louisville lost its Kroger at the beginning of the year.
According to the co-op’s steering committee, here’s how financing for the project would work: Members would purchase shares for $1,000, $100, or $25 each.
Other ways the cooperative plans to finance the project is through grassroots fundraising, philanthropy and public investment from government.
Members of the co-op would elect a board and the board would oversee a store manager.
“Having ownership really helps to secure the market and customer base,” Herron says.
Herron says a large part of her work is organizing potential owners and shoppers. Despite any differences people may have, she says everyone wants access to good food.
“There’s this assumption that poor people, people of color, people who have limited access to resources don’t want high-quality products,” she says. “In terms of having a store that you own, you get to have some input into what is in the store, what the store looks like, what other services are provided in the location.”
Since many grocery stores offer other services in addition to selling food — like banking, floral shops, and coffee shops — Herron says the co-op steering committee plans to meet with residents in the area to see what additional services interest them.
“We want to in the next six months dig deeper with our potential customer base and member-owners about what other services that the grocery store could provide,” she says.
For Herron and her committee, the Louisville Food Cooperative is a much needed service and she says they aren’t tied to the idea of the project landing at Heritage West. Other neighborhoods she thinks could benefit from the project include Old Louisville, Parkland and Smoketown. The location of the co-op is not important, she says, compared to solving the broader problem of access to healthy food.
Other proposals for Heritage West: a sports complex, a research park, and a mixed use space that includes housing, retail and green space.
Residents have until July 17 to comment on the proposals. Louisville Metro officials will then decide the fate of the site and will enter into an agreement with one of the four development teams by late summer. The option to combine proposals is on the table as well.