Fresh Produce, Diversity & A Strong Sense Of Community: Neighbors Plan March Opening Of Caton Avenue Food Co-op

Fresh Produce, Diversity & A Strong Sense Of Community: Neighbors Plan March Opening Of Caton Avenue Food Co-op
Windsor Terrace Food Co-op members gathered at Holy Name Parish Hall for their first all-members meeting Tuesday night. Photo by Hannah Sheehan
Windsor Terrace Food Co-op members gathered at Holy Name Parish Hall for their first all-members meeting Tuesday night. Photo by Hannah Sheehan

The Windsor Terrace Food Co-op is finally set to open its doors at 825 Caton Avenue on March 21, but according to lead organizer and chairman of the board Jack O’ Connell, the now 326-member group still has a lot of work to do.

“It seems that when there’s a real community participation, there’s success,” he told members at the food co-op’s first all-members meeting on Tuesday night at Holy Name Parish Hall (245 Prospect Park West). “Either we all participate in this or it doesn’t work.”

Throughout the co-op’s planning stage, members have looked to similar organizations for guidance, such as the Park Slope Food Co-op, but with the launch date less than a month away, organizers now say it’s time to focus on meeting the individual needs of the Windsor Terrace/Kensington community.

“Everybody has suggestions. I think that what we’ve learned over two and a half years is that we need to make our own way,” O’Connell said.

Photo by Hannah Sheehan
Photo by Hannah Sheehan

Members of the fledgling organization gathered Tuesday evening to put their heads together and share ideas about the kind of co-op they’re working to form. The brainstorming session revealed a wide range of far-reaching and ambitious dreams for the organization.

There’s a universal desire among members for fresh herbs and produce. Some organizers are hoping to be selling meat and fish within a year. Others are yearning for extended hours, a stronger online presence, wheelchair accessibility, greater diversity, a home delivery service, and a hand-painted sign.

Another contingency is lobbying to accept EBT cards and provide discounted membership options to low-income families. In five years, they’d like to offer cooking classes and lectures on healthy eating, sell holistic medicines, start their own bakery, and maybe even get a Citi Bike station. At least one member wishes to “avoid the drama of the Park Slope Food Co-op”–a suggestion that was met with a hearty round of good-natured laughter at Tuesday’s meeting.

Photo by Hannah Sheehan
Photo by Hannah Sheehan

The most cherished dream among members might be their hope that the space will serve as a true gathering place for the community.

“There’s been a real change in the neighborhood over the last ten years,” O’Connell said. “A lot of us thought that having the food co-op would be a place…for the community to come together.”

The work of planning the co-op seems to have already kick-started the process of creating stronger ties between neighbors.

“This is community building,” board member Marie-Alyce Devieux said at the meeting. “That’s the reason you came tonight and that is an awesome thing.”

To find out more about the Windsor Terrace Food Co-op, you can visit the group’s website.

By Hannah Sheehan

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