Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tug of War at Sunday's Food Co-op Potluck in Bay Ridge

More than 60 people attended the Bay Ridge Food Co-op Potluck Picnic last Sunday, marking the first year of the co-op’s membership drive. Intended to raise awareness of this September's "New York State Locavore Challenge," the picnic was held at Shore Road and 79th Street. Those in attendance brought food made of all locally sourced ingredients.

Photo courtesy of the Bay Ridge Food Co-op

Bed-Stuy Duo Raises Funds to Launch Organic Market

Residents in Bed-Stuy have limited options when it comes to organic and locally produced foods; eight in 10 food stores in the neighborhood are reported to be bodegas. In response to this lack, two women, Darell Brown and Evelyn Oliver, together founded Organic Bed-Stuy, a grocery that will not only bring organic foods to the under-served neighborhood, but will also educate residents about healthy eating.

“We’ve been developing the idea for over a year now,” said Brown, who grew up in Bed-Stuy, moved to other neighborhoods in the borough and then came back. “Once I moved back I found out that this is something that is really needed.”

To help get their project off the ground, Brown and Oliver turned to Kickstarter, an all-or-nothing based fundraising web site, which awards a project money only if it is fully-funded by pledges. Organic Bed-Stuy’s goal, set in the middle of June, is $20,000, and the deadline to reach it is Monday. Click here to visit Organic Bed-Stuy's Kickstarter page.

The store will still open even if the Kickstarter goal isn’t reached, said Brown, but it might take longer to do without the fundraising. The project will be funded in part through winnings from the Brooklyn Public Library’s Power Up! business plan competition, from which they took home second place and $5,000 earlier this year.

Organic Bed-Stuy will offer one-stop-shopping organic goods, with fruits and vegetables sourced locally from a farm in New Jersey. Right now, says Brown, residents in the neighborhood have to travel to several different stores or leave the area completely in search of organics.

“People want to keep their dollars here but end up having to go outside the neighborhood,” she said
Because Bed-Stuy is a community plagued by higher than normal rates of diabetes, obesity and heart disease, Brown said she wants to offer nutrition and cooking classes to the community. She also hopes to start a farm exchange with their farming partner, wherein people grow produce on his unused land.

While searching for a permanent location — Brown said she has two in mind — she is operating at the Malcolm X Farmers Market to get the word out to residents.

She and Oliver have reached out to community organizations throughout the process and she says, so far “the response has been great.” From the time they developed their business plan to when they started searching for locations, the response has increased threefold.

“A lot of people really want to see this happen,” she said.