Jack O’Connell On The Benefits Of Opening The Windsor Terrace Food Co-op

Jack O’Connell On The Benefits Of Opening The Windsor Terrace Food Co-op
food co-op by Gabriel Li //StudioGabe

For its vast population, growing popularity, and rising home prices, the Kensington-Windsor Terrace area is still shockingly underserved when it comes to grocery stores. Since the closing of Key Food in 2012 (and delays reopening it as a combination Walgreens/Key Food), FoodTown on McDonald Avenue is the only local store of its size–and the ongoing controversy at Golden Farm has eliminated yet another one stop shopping option for many neighbors.

But necessity is the mother of invention, and some locals are closer to opening a food co-op in our area than ever before. Ahead of the group’s next meeting on February 25, we talked to neighbor Jack O’Connell–who’s been at the forefront of trying to open the Windsor Terrace Food Co-op for the past year and a half–about how the idea came to be, how it would serve our community, and what’s left to do to make it a reality.

How long have you been pushing for a food co-op in the Kensington-Windsor Terrace area? Have you belonged to co-ops or organized similar efforts before?

Our effort had its start at a community meeting following the closing of Key Food in August 2012. In September 2012, a handful of Windsor Terrace residents got together with Joe Holtz and Ann Herpel of the Park Slope Food Co-op and said, “We don’t have a supermarket in Windsor Terrace, and some of us think that a food co-op might be a good idea. Please tell us how to start a co-op.”

We spent the next nine months getting the word out to the community. We also began the process of setting up a structure that could legally run the co-op once we got underway. Presently we have five functioning committees: site (finding property for the co-op), website (developing an online presence), branding (creating a recognizable symbol of the co-op), outreach (spreading the word about the effort and encouraging neighbors to join), and the steering committee, which sets the agenda for moving forward and overseeing the overall effort.

Probably 40% of the 500 people who have signed up for the email list are presently members of a food co-op–most of them the Park Slope Food Co-op. I have never been part of a food co-op; however, I have extensive experience in running a major non profit for more than 30 years.

How will a co-op serve our area?

A well-run co-op brings the community excellent food at very reasonable prices. It also serves as a major focal point in a community. Windsor Terrace has changed enormously over the past decade. There is a lot of new energy matched with the old time family stability that could make the co-op the place for neighbors to get together in a very productive way, financially and socially.

What kind of property are you scouting for the coop?

The site committee is presently viewing all commercial property from Prospect Park West all the way south to Church Avenue for a suitable store that could serve the needs of the community.

Would membership be required to shop at the co-op? Do you have to live within a certain area to become a member, or could Ditmas Parkers or other Brooklynites feasibly join?

The Windsor Terrace Food Co-op is being modeled on the Park Slope Food Co-op. Essentially, you must be a member to shop, and all members must work at the co-op for a defined period each month.

Everyone is encouraged to join the co-op; there are no regional boundaries. We welcome Ditmas Park residents to join in during our formation and we will welcome them when we open for business.

How can people show their support and help make the co-op happen?

We have monthly community meetings at the Knights of Columbus Hall (1511 10th Avenue between Prospect Park Southwest and 16th Street). Everyone is invited and we encourage folks to attend.

We have need for all sorts of talent and energy, as well as folks like myself who can do nothing more than show up. You can see the five present functioning committees–obviously fulfilling their objectives demands people of specific talents. We need everyone! There will be more committees including food and finance, so there is plenty of room for everyone.

The Windsor Terrace Food Co-op is a community-based organization that will operate with the help of neighbors’ input and abilities. You can show your support for the project and receive updates about its progress by emailing windsorterracefoodcoop@gmail.com, as well as by attending the next Windsor Terrace Food Co-op meeting on Tuesday, February 25 at 7pm.

Photo by Gabriel Li // Studio Gabe

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