By Dan Brightcliffe
For the Wire
Local support has never tasted so good.
Just ask Jessica Kirwan-Shaw and John LaSala.
The duo knows the importance of supporting the local farming community. Along with like-minded volunteers, Kirwan-Shaw and LaSala have been working tirelessly since 2009 to establish the Doylestown Food Co-op.
“ In 2009, we formed a food trust where we ordered food in an online system bi-weekly and then picked up the food at local farms.” said board member LaSala, who is also on the fundraising and operations committees for the co-op. “It wasn’t a store. It was just a small group of people.”
The Doylestown Food Co-op has certainly expanded since then. The nonprofit organization — with the goal of providing healthy and locally produced food to the community by supporting farmers and local food producers — has been successfully recruiting members and spreading awareness throughout the Bucks County community.
“What we want to do with the co-op is open a brick and mortar store, that is the ultimate goal we are working toward,” said LaSala.
Although there is not a location for the co-op yet, members are spreading awareness of the organization to the community through fundraising and educational campaigns.
“There is a strong community aspect to a co-op where the co-op really commits itself to bettering the community,” said board secretary Kirwan-Shaw. “It also offers a place where people can shop where they may recognize their fellow shoppers or they may recognize the producers who provide the things they are buying.”
The Doylestown Food Co-op currently hosts movie nights at The County Theater, various lectures and a monthly book club at the Doylestown Bookshop, all on food-related topics in an effort to generate more interest in the organization.
“We really want non-members to come out and learn and then join the co-op. For example, a few families came to a discussion we had last month and joined afterward,” LaSala explained. “Typically, at a movie event there are a lot of non-members that come out and somebody always ends up joining out of those events, which is terrific.”
Currently, the co-op has more than 200 member families. The goal is to reach 300, then find a location to open up their store, the two Doylestown residents said.
“We are looking at alternatives now to see if there is a way we could open sooner,” said LaSala. “We don’t have anything firm on that yet, but we’ve been going to our members and looking into that to see if there is a way we can accelerate the process.”
Membership for the Doylestown Food Co-op costs a one-time payment of $400. Members can pay the amount in full and receive a 10-percent discount on the fee, or pay $100 per year for four years.
If those two options are difficult for someone who is interested in joining, the board members of the co-op are open to working out different payment plans.
“We really want to be inclusive, we don’t want people not to join because they think they can’t afford it. We want everyone to be able to join who wants to,” said LaSala.
The co-op is working with more than 23 local farms and food producers to supply goods for their forthcoming store and upcoming events.
“It not only helps farmers, but the farmers who thrive in our area provide jobs for other people who live in this area …we’re putting the money right back into our community,” said Kirwan-Shaw. “Another reason is just freshness and flavor. Food that travels less distance is going to be fresher, riper and more delicious.”
For more information, visit http://www.doylestown.coop and sign up for their free newsletter, The Appetizer.