OSHKOSH, Wi. (WBAY) - Other regions of Wisconsin have them, but now northeastern Wisconsin is on the cusp of getting its first food co-op grocery store.
The Oshkosh Food Co-op hopes to start construction next year at the corner of Jackson St. and Pearl Ave. The grocery store will be on the BRIO building’s first floor, with more than 50 apartment units above.
"This location is amazing because it has high traffic, high visibility, going to have great parking,” said Brenda Haines, the Oshkosh Food Co-op president.
Haines, along with more than 1,000 co-op members, are hoping to fill a void in the community.
"The central city of Oshkosh is underserved from a grocery perspective,” said Haines.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) classifies the site as a food desert, meaning a low-income area where traditional grocery stores are more than a mile away.
"It's one of the things that's most important to us to ensure the people who live in this neighborhood, characterized as a food desert by the USDA, have access to healthy food options,” said Haines.
Roughly 20 percent of the co-op's products will be sourced locally.
“An emphasis on local food, that has really captured the imagination of the community, and I think it’s one of the reasons the idea has been so popular,” said Haines.
Richard Vinz and his wife own Olden Organics and will be one of the co-op's suppliers. They also joined on as members of the co-op three years ago.
"For us as a smaller farm, co-ops are kind of key for us to get going,” said Vinz.
Vinz says the 7-day-a-week co-op store will be a great way to go beyond the limitations of farmers markets.
"To have a brick and mortar-type facility in the food co-op will be great for our customer base to have another way to connect with us,” said Vinz.
But beyond helping local farmers, co-op members see the grocery store as an investment in Oshkosh's future.
"We've reached another mile stone and we just can't wait for the store to open,” said Haines.
Haines says they hope to break ground by May of 2020. The group just started a $1.6 million dollar capital campaign to fund the opening. Anyone interested in donating to the capital campaign can visit the Oshkosh Food Co-op website CLICK HERE.