Exciting news related to the fight against local food insecurity came this week, with U.S. Rep. Susan Wild’s (D-7) announcement that the City of Bethlehem had secured a $2.9 million federal grant for the construction of the Bethlehem Food Co-op’s community-owned grocery store at 250 E. Broad Street.
The grant is a part of nearly $10 million in funding Wild recently secured for community projects in Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district, the congresswoman announced in a news release Tuesday.
The news release said the grant will be put towards “store build out, equipment and initial inventory” for the co-op’s grocery store.
“We are very excited to be on this list of recipients, and are extremely grateful to Rep. Wild and her staff, and to the Mayor and staff of City Hall who supported this request for funding,” said Kelly R. Allen, chair of the Bethlehem Food Co-op board. “We look forward to bringing an urgently-needed grocery store to our community, where everyone can shop. When open, our full-service store will support local producers, provide well-paying jobs, and bring healthy, fresh food to our neighbors.”
The Bethlehem Food Co-op announced in March that their long-awaited community-owned grocery store would be located on East Broad Street, in an area between downtown Bethlehem and Stefko Boulevard. The location was chosen partly due to the lack of a full-service grocery store in the area.
At the time of the announcement, Co-op board member Carol Ritter said the organization had a fundraising target of $1.7 million, and that they hoped to achieve that level of financial support through a combination of member loans, tax-deductible donations, naming rights opportunities, grant opportunities and bank loans.
Following this week’s award, Ritter told Saucon Source the co-op’s committee members will take a few weeks to work out the details of how exactly the grant funds will be spent.
“Honestly, it happened so fast,” Ritter said. “We have a marketing committee and a capital committee, and we’re going to sit down and re-evaluate where we’re going with the capital campaign.”
The grocery store is just one way the Bethlehem Food Co-op plans to battle local food insecurity. The organization’s broader goals encourage physical, social and economic well-being by educating the community and providing better local food systems.
Bethlehem Mayor Robert J. Donchez commented on how the co-op’s mission will help improve the health and livelihood of the community for generations to come.
“The Food Co-op will serve the Bethlehem community with the needed service of fresh groceries and produce in a walkable area,” Donchez said. “This project will be an important catalyst in the recently completed Northside 2027 Neighborhood Revitalization Plan.”
For more information about the Bethlehem Food Co-op, listen to our Fall 2020 interview with Carol Ritter on the No Rain Date podcast (Ritter’s interview begins at 22:25).
The Bethlehem Food Co-op is also planning a block party as part of its membership drive at the site of the physical store location on Saturday, July 24. The event runs from from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and it is free and open to the public.
The block party will feature two food trucks, the Fud Truk and Simply Skewered, which will offer a variety of meat-based and vegetarian options. Dinky’s Ice Cream will also be on-site selling desserts and treats.
Local musicians Dave Fry and DJ Romeo Gaye will provide live entertainment, and there will be a variety of hands-on activities for families to enjoy. A local student of Native American history, Bob Thomas, will also present a display of Lenni Lenape information.
Visitors to the block party may also stop by an information booth, to learn more about the forthcoming full-service grocery store as well as membership. The store will be open to everyone, but owned by its members, who can purchase an equity share in the project.
To encourage new members to sign up, Edge Restaurant in Bethlehem will provide a $25 gift card to everyone who becomes a member at the block party.
You can also become a member or learn more about membership and volunteer opportunities by visiting the Bethlehem Food Co-op’s website.