Over 60 people attended a community meeting at Heartland Community College to learn more about cooperative grocery stores and explore the possibility of opening one in Bloomington-Normal.
The meeting was led by Mercy Davidson, Christina Schultz and Elaine Sebald, and included numerous presentations and sessions for audience participation.
Mercy Davidson said in an introductory presentation that a small group had discussed the idea in recent months but that it takes a community effort.
Ms. Davidson outlined in detail the motivations for starting a coop in Bloomington-Normal, including the need for more local food outlets, the support it would give to local food producers, and the benefit of strengthened community ties.
Jacquelyn Hanna, general manager of Common Ground in Champaign-Urbana, was pleasantly surprised by the number of people at the community meeting, which in her opinion demonstrated an outpouring of support for a local food cooperative in Bloomington-Normal.
Ms. Hanna told the history of Common Ground Coop, which started small in the basement of a church and only in the last few years expanded into a larger store at the Lincoln Square Mall. With two expansions in the last four years, Common Ground is now the third fastest growing coop in the United States.
Much of the community meeting devoted time to answer questions from the audience and gauge community support for the project. During a break between sessions, people in attendance had the opportunity to network, suggest different locations and a name for the store, and provide their contact information for future planning.