Bethlehem Grocery Co-op: An Oasis in the Food Desert

-By Amber Ott

If you live in downtown Bethlehem, be it the north or south side, you are in the middle of what economists call a “food desert.” This term describes any area in the industrialized world where healthful, affordable food is difficult to obtain. Sure, you can stop at a convenience store or gas station, but without getting in your car and driving at least ten minutes, you can’t put a complete and fulfilling meal on your table or in your belly! There are some local members of your community that want to change that.

Perhaps you’ve heard some buzz or have seen a flyer for the Bethlehem Food Co-op that is currently in the works? While I had some idea of what a food cooperative was, I certainly had to do my research to understand. A co-op in its simplest form is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals trying to work toward a common goal for mutual benefit. While they vary from place to place, the basic idea of the Bethlehem Food Co-op is this: we are seeking to plan and implement a community-owned grocery store somewhere in downtown Bethlehem that would offer fresh foods at reasonable prices and provide valuable outreach and resources for the community at the same time.

Imagine a permanent farmers market with more choices, if you will. Fresh, local foods and bulk bins filled with grains and cereals. Local farmers working side by side with members of the community to provide seasonal produce at a reasonable cost. You no longer have to drive out of town to get these things. You can walk or hop on your bike and have everything you need within minutes. Beyond this, imagine a place that offers classes and workshops about healthy eating and sustainable living. Actually, imagine anything you want– because YOU actually have the ability to make it happen!

This tiny seed of an idea has been planted, but it is still in the very beginning stages and has a long way to grow! So far there have been two very productive meetings with community members to discuss if this is even possible and where to begin. The conclusion is that we DO want this and it IS possible! So, now we move forward and look toward the future.

Another beautiful thing about a co-op is that it’s a democratic operation. All members have a say in how things operate. Now is a super exciting time because we have only just begun to envision what we want to see happen. Every idea counts and anything is possible. Each and every person is a valuable asset to this project and making it happen. This needs you, and in my opinion- you need it, too.

A pic from one of the first meetings for the Bethlehem co-op

Your contribution can be as simple as spreading the word or becoming an active member. You can get more involved by joining a committee of your choosing that best suits your abilities. Any amount of your time is valuable to the cause! For more information, go to www.bethlehemfood.org and get on the mailing list or friend Bethlehem Grocery Co-op on facebook. Our next group meeting is scheduled for February 20th at 7:00 p.m.– location to be announced. Come out, bring your friends, enthusiasm, and ideas!

4 Responses to Bethlehem Grocery Co-op: An Oasis in the Food Desert

  1. Steven Bost says:

    Amber, very nice article! I wish the organizers nothing but success in this!

  2. Karen Moore says:

    This may be something in which I could be interested. Does “affordable” coincide with “Wegmans” or “Price Rite”???

    • fromherenow says:

      Nothing is set for sure, but it would probably be in between Wegmans & Price Rite. We’d likely be able to save a lot of money by cutting out the middle man and working directly the farmers for local, fresh foods. Also, being member owned has many advantages, including cost savings, etc. Come to the meeting on 2/20!

  3. fromherenow says:

    If you want to get involved, the next meeting is Monday, 2/20 at 5pm the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lehigh Valley (424 Center St, Bethlehem, PA ).

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