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Food Co-op is growing on Sanibel

By Staff | Aug 21, 2009

Beth Burns spends her Wednesdays organizing fruits and veggies.

It’s not that the Sanibel woman has an unusual produce hobby. But her penchant for fresh organic fruit and vegetables has led her to joining a food co-op on Sanibel.

The members meet every Wednesday afternoon to pick-up their produce.

At the Food Co-op Burns and about 60 other members volunteer their time to help organizer Carol Simontacchi put orders together every week. Simontacchi who owns the Island Nutrition Center started the Food Co-op in July after seeing the community’s need for one.

Right now she is working on trying to make wild-raised seafood available to Food Co-op members next month. But Simontacchi who is a stickler for quality and pure products is seeking vendors with wild raised sea food from non toxic parts of the world – meaning no mercury or harmful chemicals.

She said she is also hoping to add on personal products to the ordering list. And with the one-day a week for pick-up beginning to get hectic, Simontacchi said she is strongly considering adding on an additional day for people to get their products.

Since the start of the program the Food Co-op has jumped from 20 members to 60, Simontacchi said.

For members like Burns, the ability to get fresh and organic produce on island – is paramount.

“I love that I can get organic produce every week,” she said.

Before the Food-Co-op started Burns and others used to have to depend on getting produce from regional sources without being able to order what they specifically want in the quantity they need.

But now for $20 a year and for prices 10 percent above wholesale, residents have the chance to do just that – order what they want in the amount that they need. To keep prices down, members are required to volunteer several hours a month and help organize orders and lend a hand in the delivery process.

But members don’t seem to mind a little extra work.

“It just gets expensive unless you do something like this,” Burns said.

And apparently the social factor generated from working together at the Food Co-op is a fringe benefit.

“It certainly builds community,” Burns said.

Food cooperatives are essentially worker/customer owned businesses that allow members to get good deals on fresh, healthy foods.

If a food co-op is started on Sanibel members would decide how it would be structured. Aside from the administrative fee, members would be required to work five hours a month at the food co-op. Simontacchi said. The work requirement which would include duties such as ordering products and handing out orders helps to keep the costs down.

For more information about the food co-op, call Carol at the Island Nutrition Center at 472-4499.