The Purple Porch Co-op has been named the recipient of a $100,000 federal grant to purchase new equipment and promote their store through marketing efforts. The Purple Porch Co-op features a deli, café and full-service grocery store.
Purple Porch Co-op is a member-owned grocery store specializing in locally-sourced and organic foods. The store, which has been open for six months, celebrated its grand opening last month. Prior to that, the co-op had been a weekly market for the past six years.
“We are very happy to announce that we have been awarded the USDA Local Food Promotion Program grant,” the co-op announced on its Facebook page Monday.
South Bend Voice spoke with Susan Blum, the Purple Porch Co-op board president, to discuss the store and the grant.
The Purple Porch Co-op “emerged out of the sense of frustration among a number of friends that we live in the midst of all of this agricultural bounty but we were buying food shipped across the country from farmers that we’ve never met and our money was leaving the community,” she explains.
“We never had the chance to really see where our food came from. So in order to increase the transparency, these five friends who sat on a purple porch and dreamt of changing the food system issued a call. They began to connect producers and consumers so that everybody would know exactly who was buying the food and who was producing the food.”
The Purple Porch Co-op not only sells food to the general public but also sources locally grown food to restaurants in the South Bend area. We profiled one of those restaurants last week: Smoothies, Crepes & Coffee.
The PPC store is a co-op, which means that it is owned and operated for the benefit of its members. Membership is a one-time $200 fee. That not only provides you with partial ownership of the store, but also discounts. If the co-op becomes profitable, the owner-members will receive the proceeds. The membership is also refundable, which means that if you no longer wish to be a member, you can get your initial $200 back.
Blum notes that the PPC still features its market where consumers can meet local producers every Wednesday from 5 to 7. During the summer, the market is also open on Saturdays.
The co-op tries to source its food locally when possible. Obviously not everything can be sourced locally — such as coffee or avocados — so imports are needed, they try to make sure that its products are environmentally sustainable, organic and fair trade.
“Our four values are local food, sustainability, transparency and community focus,” Blum says.
The $100,000 federal grant, which was awarded through the USDA’s Local Food Marketing Promotion Program as part of the Farm Bill, will help the co-op create a local food hub for the community. The co-op will use the grant for equipment to “help it extend the season” and service more locally sourced produce. The grant also includes money for part-time work in marketing.
For those interested in visiting the Purple Porch Co-op, it is located at 123 North Hill Street in downtown South Bend. Their phone number is (574) 287-6724 and the website is purpleporchcoop.com. Like them on Facebook at http://facebook.com/PurplePorchCoop.
You can listen to our full interview with Susan Blum below: