There’s no better feeling than when you have a community around you, supporting and encouraging you, and no one can attest to this better than the I.V. Food Co-Op.
Founded in 1973, the Isla Vista Food Cooperative is a community-owned business selling local, organic and natural foods, and has been serving students and Isla Vista residents for 40 years. Located in the heart of Isla Vista, adjacent to the UCSB campus, the I.V. Food Co-op has been a wonderful source of education for students on ethical and sustainable living and healthy food consumption. As a UCSB student, I love having an easily accessible place where I can buy products not easily found in grocery stores, like natural, organic peanut and almond butter. Yum!
However, in October 2012, the I.V. Food Co-op received the distressing news that their property of 32 years was about to be sold and bought by a larger grocer. This reality hit General Manager Melissa Cohen, who knew what she had to do. To keep their beloved business, she would have to purchase the $1.625 million property. Cohen managed to secure the financing, but there still remained the $200,000 down payment on the loans.
Cohen teamed up with her campaign manager Abby Wolff, who created a campaign called “Project We Own It,” summoning the community to help raise the funds.
“We’re truly taking it to the community. If they want to have a food cooperative, the money will come. If the community does not care, the business will fall through the cracks. Either way, it is exciting to have the future of the I.V. Food Co-op in the hands of this community. If we succeed, we will make worldwide cooperative history,” explains Cohen.
And make history they did! They were met with an overwhelming response, where 75 volunteers, most being UCSB students, spearheaded events and an online pledge platform. More than 1,000 people contributed to the cause, and in the end, they raised everything they needed.
“A lot of people told us this was impossible, but we never doubted for a second that a strong community will always support the greater good,” says Wolff.
It seems fitting that last year, the United Nations declared 2012 the International Year of the Cooperative, as the I.V. Food Co-Op is now the first cooperative in history to use community funding to buy its property. To celebrate, there will be a “grand re-opening” open to the public at the Co-op on February 10 from 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Local, organic and natural food? A loving, supportive and tight-knit community? Now that truly is something to celebrate. The I.V. Co-op is here to stay!