We're excited to be sharing our draft renderings, and one thing that isn't easy to depict in them is Chicago Market's commitment to being, as one Owner wrote, "a place where the whole community can go to access affordable products (and yes, local, sustainable ones - all the goals at once!)."
So we wanted to share some things we have in place already to make food affordable in our store:
We will administer an income-based discount program to ensure equitable access to healthy food for all.
We'll accept SNAP benefits, just as we did at our Uptown Farmers Market this summer.
We'll apply for (and have every expectation we'll be granted funding for) the LINK Match program, which doubles SNAP value for local fruits and vegetables. This was also available at our Farmers Market.
And we'll offer WIC products.
Our robust bulk foods section will offer budget-friendly options and make it easy to buy just the quantity you need (while also paying for less packaging!).
These food accessibility approaches were recommended by the Firebrand Assessment and our financial modeling includes them. And they matter so much to Owners that the governance documents that the Board wrote to oversee our General Manager include that we must "Provide pricing and product selections that fit community needs and the Purchasing Values".
Dan has experience balancing diverse shopping and affordability needs in co-ops and he is confident we can do so here. As he puts it:
"We cannot make truffles and caviar affordable (even if we sell them), but we can offer some high-quality groceries and prepared foods that are affordable at almost any income level when combined with our planned need-based programs. What we can do is address equity by giving people a choice for what they buy based upon what they believe is best for their health or taste preferences instead of being bound by price. We can absolutely get at-the-register prices between some organics at our store and some run of the mill items at competitors to be comparable in price. Then, there is a real choice. In my prior roles, that is the measure I have set as a goal and met with the teams I've built."
We also know Ownership matters at a Co-op so that people not only have access to food, they also have a voice and a stake in our success. We currently offer our All Are Welcome payment plan to Ownership and are working now on another accessible Ownership program we'll announce soon!
What's so special about a co-op? We are driven by input from Owners. You all care that your Co-op be affordable and that frames what we do. Will there be expensive items in the store? Yes, they are things many Owners want access to, and local farm goods don't have the price subsidies that commodity food does. But there will be a balance of price points with healthy, quality items and discount programs that make everything easier to afford. And all prices will be fair.
Keep the input to your Board and General Manager coming and let's build this amazing store and community asset together!