(Update: Council Member Allen Warren has been meeting with a Trader Joe’s-type food chain, according to Del Paso Blvd Partnership Executive Director, David Plag, about opening a grocery store in the North Sac area in the coming year. Also plans will soon be announced as to the location for a privately-developed, year-round Farmer’s Market. It is a project, according to Plag, which has been in development for the past 3 years.)
As mentioned in the first part of this article, it is time for those who live in the North Sac Food Desert to take control of solving their problem of not having a full-service grocery store. It is time to a look at what it probably the most practical solution and one which does not require government funding, government control, or politicians to be accomplished. It is a method which is familiar to many Californians and has been a “tried and true” way for meeting the food needs of those who live in areas not currently served by more conventional grocery stores.
It is the creation of a food cooperative. Many food cooperatives exist across the United States and around the world; there are a couple locally: the Davis Food Co-op and the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. Both are customer-owned and operated as opposed to being owned and run by those who work there. This distinction of being customer-owned is important because it allows the people who need the service to be part of running it and being part of the solution to the problem they all face. This ownership creates a bond with the other members and gives those involved a real stake in its success beyond just having a grocery store where they can buy food for their families.
The existing two local cooperatives have the potential to be a resource for those working to create the new food co-op in the North Sacramento/Del Paso Blvd area. Their experiences at starting and growing successful enterprises will be helpful in handling the legal issues of formation and also addressing day-to-day operational questions. They will work to serve as models for those who would work to create the same thing in the North Sac food desert. There will be differences from the two existing local cooperatives since the individuals involved in the creation and running of the new co-op will be different as will what the membership will want in their product selection. The new cooperative will be tailored to the needs of the local community. Longer-term benefits in the creation of the new co-op will include showing the chain stores that a location in North Sacramento is economically viable with or without government assistance and showing the residents that they can band together to address other issues as well.
Responding to questions about the possibility of a local food co-op in the North Sac area, Del Paso Heights Community Association President, Ross Hendrickx, said, “The Del Paso Heights Community Association supports any idea that makes sense for our community. We would certainly support educating the community on the benefits of food cooperatives. We would also be supportive of community members who may organize to start such an enterprise. I can’t comment as to whether the DPHCA would take the lead on starting a co-op, as the idea has yet to be thoroughly discussed amongst our members.”
David Plag, Executive Director of the Del Paso Blvd Partnership, stated, “The DPBP would support the idea of a co-op located in the area our organization works in. As to leading the effort to create one, it is an idea which really has never been proposed.”
Perhaps it is time that both groups sit down separately and jointly to look at the possibility of creating a food co-op in their area. As lead community organizations for their area, it makes sense for them to see if the idea is a good fit for their community and its residents. Perhaps working together with interested residents, such as Monique Gonzalez, the single mother quoted in the first part of this story, a co-op can be the first of many oases in the North Sac food desert.