Thanks to a $150,000 grant, a food pantry in Prospect Park, N.J., is becoming a food co-op, a retail grocery store owned by its volunteers. The grant came from Richfield Christian Reformed Church.
The food pantry, now operated by New Hope Community Ministries, started out in the basement of Bridgeway Community Christian Reformed Church in Haledon to serve a changing neighborhood that included Hispanic and Arabic immigrants who were struggling below the poverty line. The pantry outgrew Bridgeway’s basement, and its clients needed more than food. In response, New Hope Community Ministries was established in 2005.
Phil Beverly, executive director of New Hope, came up with the idea of a food co-op while watching food pantry participants bagging groceries, unloading food trucks, and restocking shelves. “What if this was actually a store?” he thought. “What if our volunteers were actually owners?”
Jen Williams, New Hope’s director of development, said, “We see a co-op as empowering low- to moderate-income residents by giving them ownership in a business. It also could create a greater sense of community and provide jobs in our neighborhood.”
New Hope, supported by several CRCs, also offers family, couples, and individual counseling, ESL classes and immigration clinics, and women’s and teen support groups. This summer they’ll offer a foreclosure prevention counseling.
“Our food pantry still exists within the mentoring programs,” Williams said. “It provides assistance to 150 families, or 600 people in the Prospect Park and Haledon areas each year.”