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When the Community Food Co-op opened in 1970, it had one storefront and only eight items on the shelves. Today, it has grown to include well over 18,000 items across multiple locations. And, with its original intent of pulling together resources to save money, the Co-op also continues to give back to the community as a result.

While members actually own a piece of the Co-op, everyone in the community is welcome to shop and take advantage of all that the Community Food Co-op has to offer.

Community Food Co-op produce
The Community Food Co-op staff takes great pride in delivering the best products to its customers. Photo courtesy: Community Food Co-op.

And a big part of what this local Co-op does is community involvement. In fact, in 2015, the Bellingham Co-op kept as much as $32 million in the local area through several channels including employing local residents, offering local product, service purchases, and providing grants and programs that benefit our local farmers and community. All of this adds to dollars spent at the Co-op staying in our local economy.

“Co-ops have always been social change mechanisms,” says Community Food Co-op Outreach manager, Adrienne Renz. “We still address poverty and inequality issues empowering people to seek the change they want.”

This is exactly what the Community Co-op has strived to accomplish. The Fresh Bucks program, a partnership between Bellingham Farmers Market, Ferndale Farmers Market, Twin Sisters Markets, the Community Co-op, Opportunity Council, Sustainable Connections, Whatcom Community Foundation and the Whatcom Health Department, provides access to anyone receiving food stamps through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. Fresh Bucks matches the purchase amount of any EBT-eligible produce up to $10 per day toward the purchase of any fresh fruits and vegetables. The incentive to create an opportunity for better health is a part of the priority of the Community Food Co-op.

Community Food Co-op Bakery and Cafe
The Community Food Co-op’s new bakery and café provides a great space for patrons to meet, work, eat and thrive. Photo courtesy: Community Food Co-op.

Through their Farm Fund program, the Community Co-op provides grants and funding to local farmers to support farm growth, increased access to local food as well as projects and trials that have the potential to provide additional opportunities to strengthen the local farming community.

The goal, says Renz, is to look for what’s already happening in the community and how the Community Co-op can add to the conversation and increase the impact.

Adding to the conversation has also resulted in the creation of learning programs such as the “Real Food Show.” Developed to provide additional education to local schools, the variety food show, featuring characters Frank and Beans, uses a dynamic approach to teaching kids about good food and inspire positive change in behavior toward health. The show is performed in local elementary schools by a two-member Bellingham Circus Guild team.

From arts events at the Co-op’s Cordata location to the summer party at Marine Heritage Park to the ongoing cooking classes it the Co-op hosts throughout the year, the Community Food Co-op provides a place and interest for everyone to participate, learn and gather as a community.

Community Food Co-op meat department
The Community Food Co-op’s knowledgeable staff is available to answer customer questions. Photo courtesy: Community Food Co-op.

And all of this was a part of the vision for the most recent changes to the downtown location of the Community Food Co-op.

A place where memories have certainly been made with kids literally growing up shopping with their parents and now even being employed at the Community Food Co-op, the Forest Street location has become a virtual gateway into downtown Bellingham. With its lively corner location for the bakery and café, it’s become a place to meet and work, eat and thrive.

That community connection is evident in the care taken in every section of the store. From the local produce and meats to the wine and cheese and the expanded deli, each staff member of the Co-op is an expert in his or her department.

And that expertise brings answers to questions no matter where the customer is in their food journey. Each staff member is conscientious in learning everything they need to know about the products they carry. The curated stock means that they have weeded through those products, bringing only what they believe are the best to the community.

Community Food Co-op
The Community Food Co-op has two locations in Bellingham. Photo courtesy: Community Food Co-op.

“A group of dedicated people can truly make a difference with care,” says Renz. “Time spent here makes a difference to the community.”

In a place where members can own a slice of a truly cooperative effort, everyone is welcome to participate in the knowledge, the variety, and the excitement available at the Community Food Co-op.

Stop in today at any of the Community Food Co-op locations, Downtown Store at 1220 N. Forest Street or the Cordata Store at 315 Westerly Road or the Co-op Bakery Café at 405 E. Holly St. at Forest Street.

 

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