October is National Co-Op Month, and what better time to celebrate the local community food co-ops here in Minnesota? A significant part of our work here at Midwest Food Connection is funded by food co-ops like Seward Co-Op, Eastside Co-Op, and Valley Natural Co-Op. 

Community co-op support across Minnesota allows us to do the work we do at nearby schools and advances food security in local communities. Keep reading for more about co-op ownership, shopping at local co-ops, and some of our favorites in Minnesota.

What is a Community Food Co-Op?

While co-ops show up in a variety of contexts, community food co-ops are essentially community-owned and -operated grocery stores. At a food co-op, foods typically include a variety of organic and locally sourced food options, so that profits from the co-op get invested back into the community.

Co-ops are built on seven guiding principles, determined by the International Cooperative Alliance: voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, economic participation by members, autonomy and independence, education and training, cooperation among cooperatives, and concern for community.

What is a Co-Op Community? How to Become a Co-Op Owner

A co-op’s community is made up of community members, shoppers, owners, and sometimes, people who are all three. Because co-ops are community-owned, anyone in the community can become an owner.

For community members, there are many benefits of joining a co-op. One of these benefits is being able to have a voice in decisions about the co-op. Owners get to vote on the co-op’s board of directors and even make recommendations for products they want to see at the co-op.

In addition to the rewarding nature of building community and making a positive social impact, owners also get discounts and other perks on their co-op. Benefits at co-ops may even include the opportunity to get a return on your investment during periods when the co-op is profitable.

To put this in perspective, Seward Community Co-Op owners receive a variety of perks. Community members interested in being owners can choose a payment plan that works best for them, making co-op ownership accessible to all community members. Once community members become an owner, they get a quarterly discount, a case order discount, and a vote on the Board of Directors. Owners also receive discounts on co-op educational classes, a Sprout! subscription, and of course, the opportunity to support their community.

Why Shop at a Community Food Co-Op?

The benefits of co-ops don’t only apply to owners. Co-op stands for cooperative…so exactly what is a cooperative? A cooperative is defined as an organization owned and operated by people to meet their shared economic, social, and cultural needs and desires. Therefore, by shopping at a local food co-op rather than a corporate grocery store, consumers support their community’s needs and put their money back into local farms, bakeries, and similar initiatives.

Further, socially conscious community co-ops commonly support local community initiatives (like Midwest Food Connection!), directly or through roundup-at-checkout programs. So, shopping at a community food co-op can also help advance the education, knowledge, and opportunity in your neighborhood.

If that doesn’t make you want to shop at a co-op, we don’t know what will! The easiest way to find the closest food co-op to you is through a simple Google search; try searching ‘food co-op near me.’ For Minnesota residents, keep reading for some of our favorite food co-ops in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas!

Where to Find Minnesota Food Co-Ops

There are a number of community food co-ops in the Twin Cities and across Minnesota. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Seward Community Co-Op Franklin Store: Located at the intersection of 22nd Ave and Franklin Ave, this is the closest Seward location to the University of Minnesota campus.
  • Seward Community Co-Op Friendship Store: Located in South Minneapolis, the Seward Friendship location is near the Powderhorn and Bryant neighborhoods.
  • Valley Natural Foods Co-Op: Located in Burnsville, Valley Natural is one of our favorites for those in the southern suburbs of Minnesota.
  • Eastside Food Co-Op Minneapolis: Located in North Minneapolis, Eastside is a good choice for Minneapolis residents or Minnesotans in the northern suburbs of the state.
  • Mississippi Market: With multiple locations around St. Paul, Mississippi Market is a convenient co-op for St. Paul residents and people in the East Metro area.
  • Wedge Co-Op: Both the Wedge Lyndale and Wedge Linden Hills Co-Ops are located in South Minneapolis. Either is a great option for a community food co-op downtown.
  • Lakewinds Co-Op: Lakewinds Food Co-Op has multiple locations across the southwest suburbs of Minnesota.

If you’re interested in becoming an owner or getting involved in your local co-op, visit their ‘join’ or ‘get involved’ tab.

Note: Midwest Food Connection will be teaching a class at Mississippi Market’s East 7th location on Saturday, October 14. The ‘Kids in the Kitchen’ class will include a tasting of fresh herbs and a pizza-making activity. The class is geared towards kids and families. Register and learn more here!

Midwest Food Connection teaches food education in classrooms across the Twin Cities and beyond. We help students build relationships with their food, and understand how their food choices connect to their environment and community. Through exploring new foods, healthy cooking, and gardening, kids get excited about learning how to nurture their bodies and the environment. 

Want to bring MFC to your classroom? Sign up for lessons or follow us on social media to keep up with what we’re up to!