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Menomonie Market Awards $2K Grant to Eau Claire Non-Profit

In fulfillment of Co-op Principle #7: Concern for Community, Menomonie Market Food Co-op has developed several programs through which we give back over $30,000 to local organizations each year. The most well-known of these is the Fund Our Foodshed Grant Program that opens to local suppliers every spring, but we now award another annual grant to one local non-profit through a relatively new investment called the Menomonie Market Cooperative Community Fund (MMCCF). At our Annual Owner Meeting in September, we were thrilled to gift our second of these grants in the amount of $2,000 to our soon-to-be neighbor, the Eau Claire Children’s Museum, using the interest earned on this investment.

If you’re unfamiliar with how this new giving program works, our co-op started the MMCCF in 2018 for two reasons: to further give back to local non-profits based in the Chippewa Valley and to aid in the development of new cooperative businesses throughout the nation.

The MMCCF is part of the larger Twin Pines Community Fund (TPCF), a national endowment fund developed to support food cooperatives; this fund has combined assets of $3,900,000. Unlike many other foundations or endowment funds, TPCF only invests in the development of cooperatives, with nothing at all in the stock market. When funds are invested by co-ops such as ours, TPCF staff then seek out stable cooperative investments for them. In 20 years of operation, there has been no loss of principal in any of the investments, which leverage over $40,000,000 put toward co-op development. The interest earned by this family of funds is returned to each home co-op so they may gift it to local non-profits; as of this year, this has resulted in cooperatives all throughout the country donating over $1,000,000 to their local partners.

The TPCF is funded through contributions from Menomonie Market Food Co-op, matches by other co-ops (some of whom include suppliers Equal Exchange, Organic Valley, Frontier Co-op, and Cabot Creamery Cooperative), gifts from shoppers through our Round Up For Good Program, and an annual fundraiser put on by our co-op.

It can be a little confusing, but this program is beneficial to us because it not only helps us support area organizations in need, but it also allows us to help other co-ops grow while giving us access to loans when we’re ready to grow. As we have learned through two expansion projects, it takes a lot of funding to build or renovate stores; a loan from the Cooperative Development Fund helps strengthen the equity in our balance sheet so a bank will lend us more money, while we receive a lower interest rate and need less collateral to get approved. We are especially grateful to be part of the TPCF as we expand our Eau Claire store and are glad non-profits get to reap the benefits as well.

This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.

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