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Local Business

Prairie Food Co-op aims for 250 'owners'

Prairie Food founders Jerry and Kathy Nash believe building a co-op grocery store would be a great benefit to Lombard, and they hope to get enough backers to move forward with their vision.

"A co-op is a community-owned grocery store that anybody can shop at, where we focus on local farmers and food producers and sell organic and minimally-processed foods," Kathy Nash said.

The Nashes founded the Prairie Food Co-op in September 2012 after moving from Urbana to Lombard. Former member-owners of the Common Ground Good Co-op, the couple decided that Lombard could benefit from easier access to fresh, locally grown food.

As of Wednesday, the co-op has 141 "owners," or members who obtain a vote and a voice in the future of the co-op. Owners can also run for the co-op board of directors and benefit from discounts and other perks at co-ops throughout the country.

"What's really special is that they have a big say in the future of the store," Jerry Nash said.

The goal is to get 250 owners by June, which would allow Prairie Food to hire Cooperative Development Services to conduct a feasibility study that would help identify the best place to build the grocery store.

The study would likely take about three months and would cost between $20,000 and $25,000, Kathy said.

One potential area for the store would be on the north side of Lombard, which does not have a grocery store since Mr. Z's closed last year.

"A lot of people are surprised to learn that the whole northern Lombard area is considered underserved by the USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture]," Kathy said. "People living in that area – there's really not a grocery store that's conveniently located for the citizens. There's definitely a need for this as a community resource."

Prairie Food held a community meeting Sunday at the Lombard Park District's Community Building. The event was attended by local officials from Lombard and Villa Park.

"The purpose was to introduce ourselves to the community to let them know what we've been doing and what we need to do," Kathy said. "We feel it was a tremendous success."

Lombard Village trustee Reid Foltyniewicz, District 3, recently became an owner and said a co-op would greatly benefit the village.

"I think providing healthier and more locally grown food would be great," Foltyniewicz said. "It would be something that would bring people from towns like Glen Ellyn, Wheaton and Carol Stream who may not have known there is a downtown Lombard of who haven't been here in a while."

_ _ _ _ _ _

If you go

What: Monthly Meet the Co-op

When: 6 p.m. May 14

Where: The Vino Cellar, 141 W. St. Charles Road

More info: Visit www.prairiefood.coop

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