Despite increased consumer demand, not enough people have regular access to locally sourced, high quality healthy foods at their local grocery store. The problem is two-fold. On the one hand, most grocery stores stock very little local food because they are unable, or unwilling, to deal with the limited volumes and less predictable supply from local producers. On the other, many low income consumers live in areas with limited grocery options and, where local or healthy products are available, they are usually priced beyond reach. Workers also face low wages, unreliable schedules, and little control.
In partnership with leaders in the food sector, ICA is working to develop a worker and community owned grocery store that features fresh foods at affordable prices, while still offering great service, and ensuring high quality jobs. Worker and community ownership isn’t enough to make a grocery store competitive and affordable. Our Community Market leverages a unique distribution system and operational strategy; combined with a network of stores that can achieve real economies of scale to address head on the challenges faced by stores located in low and moderate income communities.
For many rural locations, the closing of a grocery store can pose a serious threat to the very fabric of the community. ICA works with community groups to convert their store to community and worker ownership to preserve jobs while also laying the groundwork for a stronger community. The largest ESOP in the country is Publix Supermarkets and it stands a reminder that sustainable and ethical business practices can be profitably taken to scale.
ICA has worked in the grocery retail sector for years as both a technical assistance provider and a lender through our affiliated loan fund, LEAF. Our clients have included numerous independent grocery stores as well as the National Cooperative Grocers Association, and the Food Co-op Initiative. Our deep understanding of multi-stakeholder co-operatives and the challenges facing grocery store market allows the ICA Group to leverage worker ownership in a way that strengthens the sector overall.