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South Salt Lake Journal

Wasatch food co-op underway with promising, community-driven future

May 08, 2023 02:33PM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez

Salt Lake City based rock band Lonely Heights performs for a crowd at the funding campaign for Wasatch Co-Op. (Jesse M. Gonzalez/City Journals)

Buying “local” is in and thanks to a co-op market in the works, community members will soon be able to purchase food and drink items from area farmers, bakers and food producers. 

A co-op by definition is an association of persons who cooperate for their mutual social, economic and cultural benefit. “Salt Lake City doesn’t have a food co-op, so it’s madness that we have a food co-op here,” said Erin Whitelock, one of the leaders in organizing the operations of what will be soon become known as the Wasatch Cooperative Market. “We have a fundraiser going on, a crowd funding campaign where we’re trying to raise $65,000 to help us sign a lease on the grocery store.”

The campaigning event started on the evening of March 18 at Shades Brewing and included live music from local band Lonely Heights and brewery tours, drawings and prizes, and beer and pie pairing which was sponsored by the local shop Pie Fight.

“This is an event we’re hosting to create awareness, to get people together to talk about the food co-op. The co-op is a community-owned grocery store, so the people who shop there and work there are going to be ones who own it, and every owner has a share in that vote,” Whitelock said. “You get an equity share in the business; there’s profit sharing at the end of the year and then you get a vote on the direction and admission on the grocery store and our member ownership.”

 Whitelock and the rest of the operations crew are eager to open up the shop and have firm aspirations in sticking by the local people who are often unrecognized. “We want to source as much from local sustainable farmers, ranchers, soap makers, bakers…that’s one of the reasons we brought Pie Fight here to do a pairing—it’s a local, small ma and pa bakery—those are the kinds of things we want to support to strengthen our local community,” Whitelock said. “We invest and bring our profits back to the community.”

“Think about the supply chain crisis that has just come up recently. There’s lots of evidence that food cooperatives were able to keep food on their shelves when some of the big box stores couldn’t because they have their local farmers. Cooperatives strengthen local farms.  We have secure, healthy, local farmland because they have a consistent place to sell their goods instead of having to go once a week to the farmers market,” Whitelock said. “We’re trying to raise some money for all of the expenses—the legal expenses, the architectural design, hiring a store manager, all of that. We’ve been slowly working to get this store open for over a decade. We’re still not exactly sure when we’re going to sign the lease, but it will be sometime in May.”

Getting the necessary funds needed to open a co-op in South Salt Lake has been a slow progress, but a progress nonetheless. 

“What we’re doing is just trying to start a grassroots community owned grocery store.  We have a location that we’re negotiating on 900 South and 422 East,” said Stephanie Buranek, one of the board members who is in charge of feasibility and planning. “I serve on a volunteer board with seven other board members and we just make decisions on behalf of the community that owns the grocery store. We’re pretty excited. We’re hoping to have the big announcement and party once the lease is signed.”

Find more about Wasatch Cooperative Market on their website: λ