Plans afoot in Montavilla for a neighborhood ‘food co-op’

Find out why volunteers have been working diligently for quite some time to establish an alternative to shopping for groceries at the chain stores …

Steering committee” members of the Montavilla Food Co-op – Luby Wind, Emily Hicks, and Haley Smith – say they’re passionate about creating a local source for food in outer East Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It takes more than just finding an empty retail building, erecting and filling shelves with groceries, and throwing open the doors, to start a volunteer-based food co-op.

So say the folks who have been working to bring the “Montavilla Food Co-op” into existence.

“This effort actually began in 2009, with just a few neighbors talking about the need for access to food,” said steering committee member Emily Hicks at a meeting a couple of weeks ago. “We started envisioning what this community food access would look like, here in the Montavilla neighborhood.”

As she picks up a few healthy snacks during the meeting, Amanda Helser says she looks forward to the day when she can buy food at a community-run co-op “where community members can locally by their food – locally and responsibly.”

To that end, volunteers have organized themselves into committees to work on different aspects of setting up their food co-op.

At their meeting at the United Methodist Church, the “community forum” was the opportunity “to check back in and reconnect with those who are interested in the project,” Hicks added. “And, hopefully, to get others who are interested more involved.”

Montavilla Food Co-op booster Patrick Chizeck decries the lack of food-buying options to be found in outer East Portland.

Patrick Chizeck, who told us he works at the “local and sustainable foods” restaurant “Farm Café” in inner SE Portland, observed that many areas of town have multiple food-shopping choices.

“But, as soon as you come out east of 60th Avenue, the options drop precipitously,” Chizeck said. “Montavilla is a huge, thriving community, but has no place to get locally- made or organic food. I think it’s worth the effort; that’s why I’m involved in the project’s Information Technology steering committee.”

Meeting facilitator Marisa Peden, gets a flip-chart ready for the food co-op forum.

“I’m working on helping to create the Montavilla Food Co-op,” said steering committee member Marisa Peden, “because I want to be part of a fantastic activity that can bring the community together around food. It’s important, because we want to see our community thrive.”

While holding nothing against large chain stores – there’s only one in their community – Peden added, “It will give people in Montavilla and surrounding neighborhoods an option to shopping at large corporate-owned stores. While it brings the community together, it also gives us access to more organic, local foods.”

As you can see, a growing number of folks are taking interest in opening a food co-op in Montavilla.

The about 40 people attended the forum learned that, while opening the doors of the co-op may be some time off, they’re in the process of creating a business plan. The next step will be to conduct a feasibility study.

When might it come to fruition? “We’re shooting for some time in 2012 or 2013,” Hicks said. “Check out our website, and see how we’re coming along.”

To see the Montavilla Food Co-op’s website: CLICK HERE.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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