Spotlight on Willy Street Co-op

While the team works on administrative tasks, I thought I would share some information on a Wisconsin food cooperative that has been successful for several decades. Willy Street Co-op has a long history in Madison. The cooperative has relocated as it expanded and is now a beautiful market which serves many people in Madison. The Downtown Food Project team is happy to be mentored by Willy Street Co-op and excited to have this cooperative as an example to follow.

Willy Street Co-op opened in Madison in 1974. It started in a very small building shared with a bakery. The members wanted natural foods and more control over what they ate. Within its first year, the Co-op moved to a larger space and was able to provide a greater variety of produce, bulk and prepackaged foods. The current market at 1221 Williamson Street is 9,500 square feet and includes a teaching kitchen, deli, juice bar, and bakery. In the first five years, the Co-op grew from 1,300 to 4,000 members. It now has over 20,000 members and annual sales of close to $20 million. The cooperative is economically viable, meets the CGIN Living Wage for its employees, and is an institution in the community. The market has been so successful that it is in the process of opening a second store on University Avenue in Middleton. The Co-op held a bond sale and was able to meet their goal of $600,00 in just three weeks. By early May 2010, they had raised $1 million for the new market.

Willy Street Co-op’s goals place an emphasis on natural, wholesome, local foods. It is also concerned about the affordability of it Continue reading


Food for Thought

A number of books and movies have been released in recent years on food production, food safety, and genetically modified foods.  More and more, attention is being given to how our food is being produced, how animals are raised, how much fuel it takes to produce and ship our food, and the options we have.  A commonly quoted statistic is that the average meal travels 1,500 miles.  Shopping at farms, foodstands, and farmers markets are great ways to ensure you are getting local produce.  When you can talk to the person who grew that tomato, it gives you a connection you just cannot get in a large supermarket.  Having a food co-op in Green Bay would provide you with that connection and give local producers a market for their products. 

If you are interested in learning more, check out some of the resources below.  You may be able to find some of these books and movies at the library.  If you have a Netflix account, you can watch most of these documentaries on-line.

Movies and documentaries I have found enlightening and informative include King Corn, Food, Inc.The World According to Monsanto, and The Future of Food.  Watch for a follow-up to King Corn called Big River which will be released soon. 

Some of the best-known authors on the subjects include Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver.  Pollan is a journalist who is passionate about food that is ethically raised.  His books include  The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Food Rules).  Barbara Kingsolver wrote about how her daughter’s decision to not eat meat from animals raised on feedlots led to her family’s journey to eat local for one year in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. (Hint: it helps that they had a HUGE garden.)

There are also many web sites and food-related efforts on organic, sustainable, and local foods.  Many of you may have followed the efforts of the Canadian couple that ate only local foods for a whole year.  J. B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith kept an on-line journal and have written a book on their experiences, The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating.  They talk about all they learned about food, food miles, the struggles and joys they experienced, and how eating local has changed them.

Having a co-op resource in Green Bay that will provide us with the freshest local produce, organic and sustainably raised products, bulk groceries, and more is something we all can enjoy.

Webinar – Building Local Government Support for Good Food

NGFN (National Good Food Network) is holding a webinar on July 15 at 3:30 ET (2:30 pm). You can register here.

From the NFGN site:
Local governments can be powerful partners for changing the food system. As the Good Food and local food movements continue to gain momentum and visibility, local officials are becoming more interested in how these initiatives can help their communities. Mark Winne, author of “Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty” and top national expert on Food Policy Councils has a wealth of experience to share about local policy work as a tool for food system change.

What are the best ways to approach local officials and build partnerships with them over time? What types of strategies are most effective for Food Policy Councils and local food policy initiatives? What kind of impacts can they have on the food system and the community?

Mark will give you a crash course on how to be most effective in your efforts. Don’t reinvent the wheel! Learn from the successes of others.

Food Co-ops in Your Community

 Learn more about the benefits of a food co-op in your community. Co-ops provide access to local foods, a marketplace for local farmers and producers, and economic development. Co-ops support fair trade and living wages. Cooperatives are started and grown by member-owners and can greatly benefit the surrounding community. Watch the video “A Food Coop in Your Community” on YouTube to find out more.

Volunteers Needed

Hello Downtown Food Project Supporters & Potential Members: 

We are just getting ready to launch our membership and marketing campaign.  Thanks to the hard work of Arketype in creating a name, logo and membership brochure (all of which will be unveiled very soon) we will be getting the word out in a much bigger way!  Some of you have said that you would like to volunteer to turn the vision into a reality. Now would be a great time! 

We’re looking for people who would like to help in developing awareness of the food cooperative grocery store and get the message out.  For example, we need people who would like to:

  • Help in the development and maintenance of the website
  • Get the word out by writing press releases and features about the grocery co-op and the need for it
  • Speak to various groups about why we need a grocery co-op and why they should help get it started 
  • Talk to future members at our booth at the Downtown and Broadway farmers markets. 

 If you want to be in on the ground floor of this exciting , and help bring a grocery store cooperative to downtown, this is a great time to get involved! Email:

From Vision to Reality

The steering committee of the Downtown Food Project is deep in the middle of developing a membership and marketing/capital campaign to establish a grocery co-op in downtown Green Bay. We’re working with Arketype on marketing with a new name and logo to be announced very soon.

If you know someone with grocery management experience who would like to work with the committee to make the vision a reality, please contact us at:

Finding a Location & Site for Food Co-op

At her webinar on March 16, Debbie Suassuna of CDS Co-op distinguished between the co-op’s location and its site.  The location has to do with the characteristics of potential member/owners and customers–like education level, income, age, and job. Site requirements are factors like parking, easy access and exit, and visibility.  We have already decided that we want to locate in the downtown area. So, the question is how to bring together the best location and site requirements in downtown Green Bay.