As part of our #WhySI campaign sharing why Southern Illinois is a great place to live, work, and do business, we spoke with leaders at the Neighborhood Co-op Grocery about their dedication to improving the health and economy of our region. The Co-op is known not only for selling fresh, locally grown produce and local goods from Carbondale’s thriving art scene, but also for promoting a more engaged and vibrant community focused on local sustainability.
What are the origins of Neighborhood Co-op Grocery?
The existence of Neighborhood Co-op Grocery, which began back in 1980, was based on a need and desire from a group of community members that wanted healthy, quality foods that were not available in our region. What was known as a buying club grew in popularity, and as such, indicated a grander need to have a storefront that could serve more people.
Neighborhood Co-op Grocery was developed through shared values and principles, including supporting wholesome foods in ways that best promote the health of the individual, the community, and the earth. Some of the ways we accomplish that is by providing natural, organic, Fair Trade and fresh, clean goods for our customers; working with companies that have humane and green practices; supporting community events through participation and financial contributions; securing grants such as Link Match to help individuals and families with food insecurities, and more!
Why is it important to shop local and support businesses like the Neighborhood Co-op Grocery?
We go beyond a traditional business model and put emphasis on taking care of the region that supports us. Our mission is to be a resource for the community by supporting small farms, offering clean foods without undesirable ingredients, and to give support to organizations that help people in need. As a small, locally owned, and independent business, we are challenging a system that caters to big box stores. By supporting local businesses, we can all serve as a foundation for a sustainable economy in our region.
Southern Illinois farms are a vital component to hosting a healthier food system, decreasing dependence on areas like California that are stressed with wildfires, which are damaging crops and supplies. The Co-op serves as a conduit in connecting consumers with fresh foods while giving local farms an outlet to sell their goods.
Why is Southern Illinois a great place to own a business?
We love being in Southern Illinois because of its unique characteristics. People feel free to follow their passions, let it be food, arts, music, and beyond. There are so many hidden gems in this region, from the Shawnee National Forest to the Wine Trail. Businesses support each other and our customers appreciate what we provide. We are successful only because we have a community that shares the same values and needs.