A SHOPPING ALTERNATIVE
EAST END FOOD CO-OP
Originally formed as a food-buying club in 1972 and opened as a retail storefront in 1978, the East End Food Store survives today as Pittsburgh's only cooperative food store. East End supports sustainable practices by buying local and specially produced items you won't find at larger chain grocers and donating more than 8,000 pounds of excess food annually to eliminate food waste.
PARK SLOPE FOOD COOP
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Founded in 1973, the Park Slope Food Coop is among the nation's oldest and largest surviving consumer-owned co-ops, with some 17,000 active members contributing 75 percent of the shop's workforce. In exchange for prices on organic and environmentally friendly groceries, approximately 20 to 40 percent below market price, their controversial business model entails each member work at least one 165-minute shift every four weeks — not every month — under threat of revoked shopping privileges and double the required work-time next month.
Location: Bloomington, Indiana
Bloomingfoods has been providing fresh groceries from local producers to the artsy university town of Bloomington since 1976. Member-owners pay a one-time fee of $90 to receive benefits like 5 percent off one shopping trip each month, quarterly member-appreciation events, and notary services at all three locations, whereas non-members still have access to their beloved hot soup bar and diverse range of often rare vegetarian products.
PCC COMMUNITY MARKETS
Location: 11 locations in and around Seattle
Now 58,000 members-strong, the nation's largest consumer-owned food co-op was started in 1953 as a food-buying club of 15 Seattle families partnering with local Northwest farmers and ranchers. Today PCC operates six stores in the city and five in its surrounding suburbs, selling seasonal ingredients and original recipes made from scratch daily to members and non-members alike, with members receiving special discounts that help to mitigate the stores' middling to high price points.
PEOPLE'S FOOD CO-OP
Location: Portland, Oregon
The People's Food Co-op is owned by more than 3,000 members and governed by a board of five to nine elected directors and 30 collective member-managers. Since its founding in 1970, the co-op has expanded its retail space with geothermal heating and other eco-friendly features fitting its commitment to ethical consumerism, which includes banning on all meat products (except in pet food) as well as foods containing artificial colors, flavorings, and preservatives.
RAINBOW GROCERY COOPERATIVE
Location: San Francisco
The Rainbow got its start in the '70s (officially 1975) as a bulk food-buying program for a Hindu ashram, or temple, but quickly became controlled by a secular political action group aimed at using food distribution for the purposes of political organization and education. They've survived the political group's demise and several relocations to become one of the oldest surviving non-profit groceries in increasingly Whole Foods-dominated San Francisco. They specialize in vegetarian products and goods from local farmers and dairies committed to minimizing ecological impact.
4TH STREET FOOD CO-OP
Location: New York
Lower Manhattan's only food cooperative was founded in 1995, long after the initial 1970s boom of interest in consumer-owned food stores that created many others on this list. The wind-powered East Village store emphasizes local, organic, and fair-trade goods with particularly robust selections of seasonal produce and bulk dry goods whose prices are conveniently listed online. Annual membership dues range from $48 for a 20 percent discount and 2.25-hour per week work requirement to $60 for an 8 percent discount and no work requirements.
NEW PIONEER FOOD CO-OP
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
In addition to serving as headquarters for the National Cooperative Grocers Association, Iowa City is home to the New Pioneer Co-op, founded, like many other coops, in the early '70s as a food-buying club. Now with two additional locations in Cedar Rapids and Coralville, New Pioneer's stores feature premium to high-end prices but also boast full fresh bakery and deli selections, along with seafood products certified 100 percent sustainable.
NATURAL HARVEST FOOD CO-OP
Location: Virginia, Minnesota
Started as a small buying club in 1976, the Natural Harvest Co-op has been steadily growing in sales and member-ownership ever since, opening in its original retail space in 1979 before expanding elsewhere in 1991 and again in 2017. In addition to regular discounts for owners as well as the general population, the co-op offers a selection of organic and health-nut-friendly products you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in this remote northern region of Minnesota.
MISSISSIPPI MARKET NATURAL FOODS CO-OP
Location: St. Paul, Minnesota
On a similar timeline to Natural Harvest, St. Paul's Mississippi Market opened its doors in 1979 and expanded to more than double its size in 1991 before opening two additional locations in the 2000s, all thanks to the enduring patronage of its members and community. The co-op returns the favor with regular cooking classes and annual member-appreciation events. Though quality standards can cause some products to be prohibitively priced, budget-minded shoppers can still find great deals by looking for the store's Co+op Basics brand.
VIROQUA FOOD CO-OP
Location: Viroqua, Wisconsin
Among the few grocery options in its rural Wisconsin town is the Viroqua Food Co-op, which started as a natural-foods buying club before opening officially in 1995. They have great selections on bulk products, artisan wines, and cheeses from trusted sources both local and international, as well as a produce section comprised of more than 95 percent organic ingredients.
SACRAMENTO FOOD CO-OP
Location: Sacramento, California
Founded in 1972, the Sacramento Food Co-op opened its own cooking school and community learning center in 2001, so in addition to selling meat and seafood, beer and wine, and all-organic produce, the member-owned institution now also offers helpful cooking courses and recipes for paying members and low-income families.
UPPER VALLEY FOOD CO-OP
Location: White River Junction, Vermont
Founded in 1976, the Upper Valley Food Co-op doubles as a grocery store and one of the few common spaces in an unincorporated town of some 2,000+ residents. Now with more than 1,300 active members, the co-op features an upstairs community center with a classroom and "Sew-op" studio for knitting and other educational courses.
MARYLAND FOOD CO-OP
Location: College Park, Maryland
This food cooperative was founded by University of Maryland students in 1975 against the wishes of faculty and local police, but today it's a firmly established student-union institution regularly featured on campus tours. They prioritize vegan and vegetarian options in their well-priced prepared foods, mostly limited to a hot bar and an extensive list of customizable sandwiches.
FRONTIER NATURAL PRODUCTS CO-OP
Location: Norway, Iowa
The Frontier Co-op is a major supplier of natural products in Eastern Iowa. It was founded as a two-person operation in an old riverside cabin in 1976. In addition to packaging and distributing its Frontier brand throughout the U.S. and Canada, the store specializes in fair-trade teas and bulk foods like spices and dried fruits, sourced from sustainable organic growers locally and internationally.
GEORGE STREET CO-OP
Location: New Brunswick, New Jersey
This co-op was started in a garage in 1973 by the Vegetarian Club of nearby Rutgers University. The non-profit natural store now runs a retail space in downtown New Brunswick dedicated to selling vegetarian foods with the most nutritional value and fewest additives possible, with an adjoining café regularly hosting open mics, board-game nights, and other community events.
YPSILANTI FOOD CO-OP
Location: Ypsilanti, Michigan
The only not-for-profit food store in Ypsilanti is also one of the only solar-powered grocery stores in Michigan, formed in 1975 but was fitted with solar panels in 2005 that now provide 100 percent renewable power for the in-store bakery. As well as offering a wide array of seasonal produce, bulk foods, and Michigan-made products, the co-op functions as a hub for most all events, film screenings, and community projects concerning sustainable living in Ypsilanti.
WILLY STREET COOPERATIVE
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Now with three locations and 35,000 owners, the Willy Street Co-op has been serving Madison since 1974 with fresh, locally stocked selections of meats, seafoods, cheeses, vitamins, body-care products, and prepackaged foods. Anyone can shop at the stores, but owners receive special discounts on seasonal products and attendance at their regular kid- and adult-friendly cooking series, and other events.
WHOLE FOODS CO-OP
Location: Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth's own non-profit destination for organic produce and other groceries was formed by 20 original member/owners in 1970. It's now more than 8,000 members strong and the town's first LEED-certified retailer, with two locations offering weekly deals on local and largely organic products like cheese curds and grass-fed beef.
Location: Austin, Texas
The Wheatsville Co-op was formed in Central Austin in 1976 and today stands as Texas' only cooperative food retailer, with more than 21,000 invested owners. Consistently voted one of the city's favorite neighborhood markets, the co-op is beloved for everything from its vegan donuts and reasonable prices on organic produce to its fund drives for local non-profits and "Co-op Explorers" program, providing children a free piece of organic fruit for every visit.
WEDGE COMMUNITY CO-OP
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Wedge started as a backyard operation in 1974 and has since grown to encompass an organic distribution business, café, and community gathering space, as well as consolidating with the Linden Hills Co-op to form the Twin Cities Co-op Partnership. It costs $80 to become an owner and receive bonuses like monthly discounts and coupon book, but its affordability program lets community members in financial need apply to join for an initial investment of just $10 and then receive 10 percent off every purchase.
THE MERC CO-OP
Location: Lawrence, Kansas
Another homegrown buying club founded in 1974, the Merc has upgraded locations several times and is currently adding new carports and a rooftop array as part of Lawrence's largest solar energy project to date. The community-owned grocery establishes close relationships with local suppliers, so staff members are practically experts on the store's inventory, which includes prepared foods like party platters and meal kits from Kansas City's Happy Food Co., equipped with all the ingredients you'll need to execute the included recipe.
GREENTREE COOPERATIVE GROCERY
Location: Mount Pleasant, Michigan
The GreenTree Cooperative Grocery (formerly Mount Pleasant Food Co-op) established its current retail space in 1977, which they've since expanded to include a greenhouse, walk-in refrigerator, and on-site deli kitchen. All of GreenTree's produce is certified USDA organic or sourced from responsible local (within 100 miles) farms, or both, and the store also boasts large selections of wellness products and bulk foods, for which you can bring your own containers to refill.
Location: Ithaca, New York
Founded in an old grain store in 1974, GreenStar, like many other co-ops, now serves as a destination for community education and assistance on sustainable foods, offering cooking classes, discounts on membership and purchases for customers on food stamps or WIC, and numerous other ongoing programs promoting greater access to equitable local products.
CO-OP FOOD STORES
Location: Hanover, New Hampshire
This collective of food co-ops throughout New Hampshire and Vermont began in 1936 with 17 members as the area's first self-service grocery store. The original community-owned Hanover store yielded five other locations throughout the area, which collectively employ 400 people and serve more than 20,000 members. Some of their more unique offerings include cooking classes, design-your-own gift baskets, and rotating weekly growler pours of local craft beers.
COMMON MARKET CO-OP
Location: Frederick, Maryland
Founded as a buying club in 1974 and incorporated as a co-op seven years later, the Common Market Co-op finally opened to the general public as well as investing members in 1990, gradually growing into Frederick's full-service one-stop shop for natural foods. Expansions include a café, juice and coffee bar, sustainable-seafood counter, and a community room for regular classes on cooking, environmental wellness, and backyard agriculture.
SNO ISLE FOOD CO-OP
Location: Everett, Washington
More than 5,000 local families comprise the ownership base of Sno Isle Food Co-op, a Seattle-area grocer founded in 1997 emphasizing organic and sustainable food cultures through strong ties to local suppliers. Though not known for their budget-friendly prices, the co-op attracts members and non-investing customers instead with organic produce and daily fresh deli selections.
FIRST ALTERNATIVE NATURAL FOODS CO-OP
Location: Corvallis, Oregon
Now with two stores in Central Oregon, First Alternative was founded by a group of Oregon State University students and concerned citizens in 1970 to offer natural products as well as educational opportunities promoting healthier living. First Alternative's eco-friendly business practices and outreach efforts still adhere to that original purpose, while its stores offer particularly robust selections on bulk foods plus locally produced wines, beers, and hard ciders.
OCEANA NATURAL FOODS COOPERATIVE
Location: Newport, Oregon
Oceana was opened in 1977 as Newport's first purveyor of both organic and bulk foods, supporting naturally raised local products and eliminating excess packaging. Today Oceana also carries all-organic produce and biodegradable cleaning products and offers a sit-down eating area for customers to enjoy fresh prepared foods from their salad and hot bars every weekday.
PEOPLE'S FOOD CO-OP
Location: La Crosse, Wisconsin
Founded in 1973 and now with more than 9,000 member-owners, the People's Food Co-op operates two stores in Minnesota and Wisconsin emphasizing local producers from within 200 miles of their locations, and regional ones from further afield within the states Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. It has sandwiches and other deli options made from scratch daily as well as seasonal breakfast and lunch fare from Hackberry's Bistro above their La Crosse location, plus a unique selection of handmade housewares.
MOSCOW FOOD CO-OP
Location: Moscow, Idaho
The Moscow Food Co-op was established in 1973 by four local friends committed to providing better food to build a stronger, healthier community. Today more than 7,800 invested owners steward that original vision by sourcing organic, halal, and sustainable products from local producers within 250 miles, and offering helpful discounts for members or citizens in need.
Location: Boise, Idaho
Founded as a food-buying club in 1973, the Boise Co-op has expanded to two natural food stores with satellite locations that including a wine shop, wine bar, and pet shop, so customers' furry friends can eat as healthy as they do. Thanks to their high product standards, the markets support more local meat producers than any other in Idaho and often host sample stands run by the local farmers, cheese makers, and other producers.
COMMUNITY FOOD CO-OP
Location: Bozeman, Montana
Founded in 1979, Bozeman's Community Food Co-op has grown such that it now has two retail outlets and the off-site Central Kitchen, supplying customers as well as both stores with fresh-made pastries, bread, and deli products. Some of their unique grocery offerings include local ranch eggs, kombucha on tap, to-go pizzas, coffee bar, and a wide assortment of made-in-Montana spirits and supplies.
THE CO-OP SIOUX FALLS
Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota
The Sioux Falls Co-op was founded in 1973 and now boasts about 3,000 active members. Customers can typically find good selections on vegan foods and unique meat products like yak, as well as local products specially marked for convenience, while their salad bar offers tasty rotating option for on-the-go lunches.
HENDERSONVILLE COMMUNITY CO-OP
Location: Hendersonville, North Carolina
Currently celebrating the 35th anniversary of its incorporation, this community-owned grocery store has unique offerings in all departments, from meat and seafood to produce and bulk foods, with its buying standards emphasizing a lack of antibiotics or preservatives and a focus on small local producers often outweighing the higher-end prices.
ROANOKE NATURAL FOODS CO-OP
Location: Roanoke, Virginia
Known locally as just "the Co-op," the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op was incorporated in 1975 and today stands as Virginia's largest cooperative natural grocer, now with two retail locations. In addition to standard co-op offerings on organic produce, eco-minded pre-packaged groceries, bulk spices, and fair-trade teas, they have a relatively new deli setup featuring preservative-free soups, salads, and a low-priced hot bar with rotating specials for each day of the week.
GOOD FOODS CO-OP
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Started as a neighborhood buying club in 1972, Good Foods has since grown to a full-service cooperative grocery store with its own deli and community room, plus a satellite café in Lexington's Downtown Central Library. Its highly curated inventory features products from more than 250 local vendors, meaning 50 cents of every dollar spent at the store stays in and supports Central Kentucky's economy.
NEWARK NATURAL FOODS CO-OPERATIVE
Location: Newark, Delaware
Owned by more than 4,000 active community members, this cooperative grocery began in 1967 and incorporated in 1975 to offer locally sourced products that promote sustainable practices and accommodate any dietary restriction. Newark Natural Foods now has an in-store café and lending library, and in summers hosts a Saturday farmers market right out front with special discounts to help SNAP/EBT recipients save more on healthy foods.
MOUNTAIN PEOPLE'S CO-OP
Location: Morgantown, West Virginia
Since 1975, the Mountain People's Co-op has provided locals with unparalleled access to sustainable foods and artisan products from small local farms and other producers, many of which are mapped out on their site. The store also features a café and the Venerable Bean Bakery, specializing in vegan updates on beloved classic treats.
Location: Jackson, Mississippi
The second Rainbow Co-op on this list was founded to provide low-cost local groceries and organic produce to central Mississippi in 1980. Now operated by 300 member-owners with a standard-membership base of 6,000, the Rainbow also runs an organic vegetarian restaurant, the Fair Trade Green for environmentally sustainable gifts, and a Computer Co-op offering discounts on computer parts and digital services for investing individuals and businesses.