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Organizers hit milestone in effort to create Electric City Food Co-Op

Organizers hit milestone in effort to create Electric City Food Co-Op

300th member joins long-running effort to create new source for food in Schenectady food desert
Organizers hit milestone in effort to create Electric City Food Co-Op
Kat Wolfram prepares brochures promoting the Electric City Cooperative at Arthur’s Market in the Stockade last May.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY — The long-running drive to open a co-operative food market in Schenectady has reached an important milestone: Its 300th member has signed up.

It has been a month shy of six years since the Electric City Food Co-Op incorporated, and organizers have been pressing the cause continually during that period.

Co-Op President Kat Wolfram said 300 members is a commonly used benchmark in the food cooperative industry for marketing and feasibility studies. It shows a level of commitment in the community that is important to secure before proceeding, she said Wednesday.

“We wanted 300 before we take on this huge project,” she said.

The Co-Op will hold a celebration with its owner-members from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at Urban Co-Works, the 433 State St. co-working space where the co-op has an occasional presence. Organizers will discuss the next steps in the effort to create the food market. The public is invited to the free event, but attendees are asked to register in advance through the Co-Op’s Facebook page.

Prospective members are especially welcome at the event, as they are still needed in large number.

“This doesn’t stop,” Wolfram said of the membership drive. “We don’t ever stop getting more and more members.”

The Co-Op got support from a couple of high-profile area residents to reach its first milestone: U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, signed on as the 299th and 300th members.

Membership costs $200 (member-owner) or $500 (supporting member owner). Pledging member owners pay $20 a quarter or $50 a year.

The Electric City Food Co-Op has several core principles:

  • Working with local farmers and producers.
  • Ethical, sustainable and transparent business practices.
  • Providing activities space for families and community members.
  • Education on health and wellness.

The goal of creating the co-op is to address the food desert that exists in downtown Schenectady and adjacent neighborhoods where there is no supermarket within walking distance, only corner stores with higher prices and limited selection.

However, it would also need to be easy for customers arriving by car, because most of the city (and all of the surrounding region) would not be within walking distance, wherever it is built. Adequate parking and easy access to Interstate 890 are key details the co-op board wants in its eventual location, Wolfram told The Daily Gazette in 2018.

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