Reaching Further into our Community
Since Menomonie Market Food Co-op and Just Local Food Co-op merged in the fall of 2021, I’ve been focusing on growing our community outreach program in preparation for the expanded store in downtown Eau Claire to open. Community outreach looks different for every business, but for our co-op, it involves a wide range of work, and all of my workdays can look a lot different depending on the time of year for that reason. One day, you can find me selling walking tacos at the Downtown Menomonie Community Cookout or handing out stickers and treats at college campus welcome events, while another I’m making skincare crafts at local wellness fairs or celebrating the LGBTQ+ community at annual pride month events. A fun part of my job is getting to be out in the community at all of those community events—talking with all of you, hearing your stories about our stores over the years, and discussing our shared dreams for the new location. As opening day approaches for that store, I’m already brainstorming all of the ways we can increase our community involvement next year as we grow.
One of the exciting ways we’ll see growth happen right away is through in-store events. At our Menomonie location, we already host several community events throughout the year where you can meet local suppliers, try new foods and beverages, get discounts on your favorite products, and have a fun day out with family and friends. Starting this winter, we’re planning to bring our Holiday Hoopla sampling and shopping event to the Eau Claire store for the first time and are already dreaming about the fun ways we can use all of the extra space we’ll have. And in the spring, we’ll be exploring the possibility of hosting our Community-Supported Agriculture Fair in Eau Claire as well as Menomonie so you can meet more farmers who sell seasonal shares.
Increasing the size of the Eau Claire store not only supports our local suppliers, but the increase in sales will also allow us to give back to our community in more ways. Through our donation and sponsorship program, we give nearly $20,000 back to various organizations through raffle gift baskets, monetary donations, and free products. As our co-op grows, we’ll be able to increase that number and give back in new ways.
Speaking of monetary giving, the Fund Our Foodshed Grant Program, made possible by your Round Up For Good contributions every March and April and a matching donation from our co-op, will continue to grow with our stores. This year’s grant cycle was our largest to date during which we excitedly awarded $15,000 in grants! Our hope is to increase that to $20,000 within three years.
Additionally, regularly scheduled community workshops will be returning to the Menomonie store’s classroom this fall. We want to offer a slate of monthly, rotating, hands-on learning opportunities taught by local experts, and I’d love to hear what types of workshops you are interested in attending. If you live in Eau Claire and are interested in attending a workshop, we will be exploring workshops at that location as well once we settle into our new event space and have a feel for how often it will be rented throughout the year.
You already know the drill, but be sure to keep an eye on our emails and social media accounts for announcements about all of these different ways you can connect with our co-op in the community or in-store, and come say hello if you see our teal booth at community events. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email with ideas, requests, or invites to whatever new event you may be planning next, too!
This article was originally published in the July/August 2023 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.