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Food Co-ops Quantify Local Goodness

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Member-Owned Three Rivers Market Serves up Local and Regional Food for East Tennessee

You can’t help but notice it when you walk in a local cooperative grocery store.  The atmosphere is pleasant, the sales are low-key, and the staff will take time to answer any questions.  Local, organic and good-for-you products are the norm, not the exception.

Now co-ops have some hard data to back up the advantages of this feel-good alternative to the average grocery store. The National Cooperative Grocers Association says for every dollar spent at your local co-op, 38-cents goes back into your local community, compared to just 24-cents reinvested from conventional grocers.
“A quantitative assessment like this that shows the impacts of food co-ops has never been done,” according to NCGA leader Robynn Shrader. The CEO said, “we wanted to put numbers to what we’ve known for decades:  that food co-ops generate tangible social and economic benefits for the communities they serve in ways that conventional grocers just can’t.”
The NCGA study gathered both industry and government data, used surveys and employed various economic impact multipliers to arrive at averages.  The  data reflects a lead of more than 17 1/2% in what co-ops return to their communities via an economic multiplier, versus other grocers.  NCGA says $1,000 in shopper dollars turns into local reinvestment of $1,604 through goods and services trade, $239 more than from conventional stores.

Katie Ries at Three Rivers Market

It’s no surprise that the leaders in supporting local farmers, sustainable building, and recycling efforts would also provide their employees an average of a dollar more per hour in wages and benefits. Where will you find the most organic food choices?  You guessed it:  your local co-op.  You can search here for the co-op nearest your home.

At East Tennessee’s member-owned food co-op spokesperson Katie Ries said, “This study confirms that the work we do every day at Three Rivers Market is part of a much larger movement to feed and support communities across the country. We’re proud to be a business that has a proven positive impact in our community.”


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