Windsor Terrace Food Coop, an affordable, volunteer-driven corner store created to address the loss of neighborhood grocery stores, recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary.
After the closure of a Key Food — the last supermarket in the neighborhood — in 2012, the stretch between Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery became an area of scarce produce. Neighbors from both Windsor Terrace and Kensington took it upon themselves to partner with local producers and put together a membership system to cover local’s demand.
Since then, more stores have opened in the area, but the Windsor Terrace Food Coop remains some shoppers’ first choice for fresh, affordable produce.
“There is so much camaraderie,” said Sheila McDevitt, the coop’s bookkeeper and treasurer. “I know people’s names, I know their kids and where they are going to visit their parents. Working with the community excites me.”
A decade since its launch, the coop continues to provide organic and pesticide-free locally grown produce, free range eggs, nitrate-free meat from grass-fed animals, among other previously hard-to-find items on Windsor Terrace residents’ grocery lists.
“It all is sustainability,” said McDevitt. “The fact that food is organic of course, but also the local farms that we get it from, and socially as well since it’s affordable.”
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The coop is engaged in the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT), a federal initiative that provides food benefits to children who miss the opportunity to receive school meals due to pandemic-related school closures. These benefits take the form of funds, which can be used in the same way as SNAP, or food stamp, cards.
Every dollar spent from costumer’s P-EBT card buys fruits and vegetables from the coop’s suppliers at wholesale cost with no markup added, said McDevitt. Leftover produce is also donated to People In Need, a nonprofit immigrant women-led grassroots organization based in Brooklyn.
Volunteers deliver the food to financially-vulnerable families in the community.
There are currently 175 members working at Windsor Terrace Food Coop’s 825 Caton Ave. location, down from the 250 who participated before the coronavirus pandemic hit the five boroughs. Given the food supply and volunteer’s availability, the coop operates on Monday and Thursday afternoons and evenings, as well as mornings and afternoons Friday through Sunday.
Through the rest of the year, the food hub will be open on weekends for non-members.
Looking towards the future, McDevitt told Brooklyn Paper that the coop’s goal is to bounce back to pre-pandemic membership and continue to grow.
“We need to attract more people so that we can open our doors for longer and maybe everyday,” she said.
At a small celebration last month, Assemblymember Robert Carroll and Councilmember Shahana Hanif presented the coop with citations for their 10 years of hard work on behalf of the community — and a toast of the food hub’s “family-favorite” kombucha.
“The coop is a great place to come together with my neighbors while working and shopping for local, healthy food,” Windsor Terrace Food Coop Outreach Committee Chair Rachael Fauss said in a statement. “The kombucha on tap is a family favorite!”
On Twitter, Hanif lauded the coop’s “small but mighty” team of volunteers.
“Congratulations to @WTFoodCoop on a decade of serving locally and ethically sourced foods to our community! This co-op is small but mighty, and through #COVID their partnership with countless food pantries and mutual aid networks has helped hundreds of our neighbors,” the pol tweeted. “My office continues to enjoy delicious local cheeses and the best fruits catered at our Participatory Budgeting events. I look forward to another decade of the @WTFoodCoop and advocating for more co-ops to keep money in our communities!”