Urban Food Cooperatives

What is an Urban Food Cooperative?

At VASDC, we distinguish between two types of food/grocery cooperatives.  The urban food cooperative is located in a metropolitan area, usually with a university, and focuses on providing organic, locally sourced, non-GMO produce and dry goods. Residents of the area typically have above average income and education.   There are generally many alternative private grocery stores, such as Krogers, Walmart, or Hy-Vee, where residents can shop.

This food cooperative contrasts with the small town model that is explained here.  The small town cooperative provides basic grocery items to local residents and is likely the only option in the area for fresh produce and meats. 

The following urban food cooperatives are operating in Illinois:


Bloomington Green Top Grocery                http://greentopgrocery.com/
Carbondale Neighborhood Co-op Grocery http://neighborhood.coop/
Chicago Chicago Market – A Community Co-op
Chicago Co-op Markets: Whole Health
Chicago Dill Pickle Food Co-op  http://dillpickle.coop/
DeKalb Duck Soup Co-op http://www.ducksoupcoop.com/
Elgin Shared Harvest http://www.SharedHarvest.coop
Lombard Prairie Food Co-op http://www.prairiefood.coop
Macomb Macomb Food Co-op http://macombfoodcoop.net
Matteson South Suburban Food Co-op
Oak Park The Sugar Beet http://www.sugarbeetcoop.com
Park Forest South Suburban Food Co-op
Urbana Common Ground Food Co-op http://commonground.coop/

Source:  Cooperative Grocery Network

How VASDC Can Help

We have worked with most Cooperatives listed above, including all of those outside the Chicago area.   Our services have varied depending on the stage of the cooperative’s development, but we have often assisted with financial projections, business planning, accounting system, marketing options, and store layout.  The table below provides a more detailed listing of the services that we offer.


Primary services (free of charge)
·       Basic characteristics of cooperatives

·       Cooperative start-up process

·       General business start-up process

·       Business plan development

·       Community / member surveys

·       Overview of incorporation process

·       Overview of cooperative bylaws

·       Principles of target market analysis

·       Overview of co-op legal & taxation issues

·       Store operation and management

·       Store competitive market analysis


·       Customer focus groups

·       Steering committee formation

·       Board of directors training

·       Member recruitment

·       Co-op business finance

·       Fundraising and capital campaigns

·       Grant writing techniques & assistance

·       Marketing principles

·       Succession planning & co-op conversions

·       Store cash flow and financial projections


 Additional services (fee-based or by referral)
·       Professional preparation of incorporation documents & by-laws

·       Feasibility studies

·       Target market analysis (formal studies

·       Marketing studies (formal studies)

·       Economic impact analysis

·       Organizational development

·       Complex cooperative accounting or audit                  issues

Of course, we are available to discuss specific issues that your start-up group or operating cooperative is facing even if the matter does not obviously fit into one of the categories above.  Contact Sean Park at MS-Park@wiu.edu and let’s discuss.