Foster Louisville’s Cooperative Economy
Ariana Levinson and Kaitlyn Smith*
The resurgence in the Louisville business communities’ interest in socially responsible companies is evident in the popularity of Canopy, a new initiative to foster business that do good as an integral part of their overall mission. Cooperative economics is one way to foster economic development through businesses that do good in their communities. Cooperatives are owned by their users, whether workers or consumers. We share some information about cooperative economics and particularly its potential as a way to address food insecurity. Our hope is that members of communities that lack a grocery store will become active in the Louisville Association of Community Economics (LACE), which educates the community about cooperatives and aims to bring a community grocery to Louisville.
Cooperatives are businesses voluntarily owned and governed by the community that they serve. Individuals become owners by making a one-time equitable investment. We have several co-ops that already serve our community, such as Falls City Community Bike Works and Momma’s Hip.
Cooperatives are growing around the city. The full stop filling station that will be located on St. Catherine Street will specialize in sustainable products like locally grown food and biofuel and run on a cooperative model, allowing employees to have a say in how the business is run. The Smoketown Wellness Center is launching an initiative to open a home healthcare, worker-owned cooperative that would be the first to open in an ecosystem of worker-owned cooperatives. In Russell, cooperatives will play a role in the Place of Promise initiative.
Residents of Old Louisville, Russell, Shawnee and Portland are feeling the strain of the closing of five grocery stores within the last three years. Residents in these neighborhoods and Smoketown and Shelby Park have to travel for fresh and healthier foods that are affordable. The problem does not stop there, many people in these neighborhoods lack transportation to the remaining stores. They are dependent on public transportation or must shop at a place accessible by walking or bicycle.
New Roots Fresh Stop Markets is an example of cooperative economics alleviating food insecurity. Fresh stops are located in the Old Louisville, Portland, Shawnee, Russell, and Smoketown Neighborhoods, among others. Members pool their money, buy fresh produce from local farmers, and distribute it to their members. Pooling of funds enables purchase of healthy food that would otherwise be unavailable to members who are unable to pay or pay a small amount.
LACE, is an all-volunteer non-profit that was formed in 2016. LACE promotes cooperative economics, organizes work-shops and provides training, and aims to bring a community grocery to Louisville. A primary goal of LACE is alleviating food insecurity. The Louisville Community Grocery will operate on a cooperative model. By paying an affordable sliding scale fee, consumers will become owners. The Grocery will be an accessible place for residents, whether members or not, to buy affordable and healthy food. It will supplement Fresh Markets by operating year-round and providing meat and staples as well as produce. The Grocery will source some products from local farmers and local businesses. The Grocery will provide the community wealth via ownership, income, and jobs. LACE hopes to avoid gentrification with this cooperative model. Moreover, revenue will stay in the community and not be sent to a corporate headquarters in another state, as in a traditional grocery store.
Call to Action
Are you a member of a community that lacks a grocery? Join LACE and become active in one of the Committees: Community Outreach, Market Research and Finance, Governance and Membership, and Fundraising. Don’t have time to join? Sign up to volunteer at various events through the community to spread the word about the Community Grocery and ask others to complete a survey about food shopping habits. By volunteering with LACE, you have the opportunity to get involved with community members who believe heathy food should be accessible for all and to help get the Grocery started. If you are interested in volunteering with LACE, please visit the website at: https://lace.coop/ or call (502) 354-8238.
Are you a philanthropist? LACE needs funding for an attorney to incorporate the grocery, a business plan, and a project manager.
LACE is an organization that believes heathy food is a human right and the communities’ self-reliance in providing food needs is essential. Many neighborhoods in Louisville experience food insecurity, and LACE aims to address this issue through cooperative economics.
*Ariana Levinson is a member of LACE and a Professor of Law at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, where she is the principal investigator of a Transdisciplinary Consortium research team. Kaitlyn Smith is a geography masters’ student at the University of Louisville, and a research assistant for a Transdisciplinary Consortium research team. The expressed views are those of the authors and not the institutions to which they belong (https://louisville.edu/socialjustice ).