Daily Orange: Eat To Live Food Co-op breaks ground on South Side

The Co-Op would like to hire a general manager with a background in managing a grocery store and then fill the remaining positions with Southside residents and train them to be future managers, said Howie Hawkins, who serves as secretary of the Co-Op board.

Southside Food Co-Op holds groundbreaking ceremony Friday

Published May 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Government officials, Southside Community Coalition members and others from the community gathered in an empty lot on South Salina Street on Friday morning for the ground-breaking of the Southside Food Co-Op.

‘You deserve this,’ Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said during an address to the community members in attendance. ‘You’ve deserved this for a long time.’

The Co-Op, which aims to bring fresh food and grow business relationships on the Southside, has been in the making since 2006 and was adopted from the Southside Community Coalition with assistance from Syracuse University. Miner and SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor attended the event where the mayor thanked Cantor for the $207,000 grant that initiated the project.

The Co-Op building, designed by SU assistant architecture professor Sekou Cooke, will house Eat to Live Food Co-Op and an independently run cafe. Cooke designed the modern-looking building with green technology, including solar panels and eco-friendly materials.

The project will cost about $900,000 in total, and the coalition has already raised much of the cost through grants. Joseph Bryant, president of the coalition said the funding includes:

- $394,000 grant from New York state through the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council
- $207,000 grant from SU through Cantor’s office
- $50,000 grant from the Gifford Foundation
- $30,000 from the Central New York Community Foundation
- $30,000 grant from the Allyn Foundation

The area the Co-Op is being built in is one of the most highly recognized food deserts in the city of Syracuse, meaning it has limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, Bryant said. This Co-Op building would not only provide fresh food, but would also grow business relationships with local farmers and provide jobs for residents, he said.

The Co-Op would like to hire a general manager with a background in managing a grocery store and then fill the remaining positions with Southside residents and train them to be future managers, said Howie Hawkins, who serves as secretary of the Co-Op board.

Although the Co-Op plans to connect with local farmers, there is also talk about including urban farms right in the neighborhood, Hawkins said.

‘If you go down some of these neighborhoods where there’s only one house standing and take a picture, you would think you’re on a country road,’ he said. ‘We can use that land.’

The building will be the first new business constructed in the Southside in more than 30 years, said Linda Littlejohn, associate vice president of the coalition. She said the project is a marriage between economic development and community health and nutrition.
But, she said, it doesn’t end here.

‘We need to continue to this community. We need to work to achieve self-sufficiency and independence for his community,’ Littlejohn said.

Southside community member Gary Jefferson has volunteered for the coalition for a year after joining because he wanted to see change in his neighborhood. Where he lives, he has to travel long distances to get fresh food. Even when local stores do carry fruits and vegetables, they are usually going bad, he said.

‘It’s going to be a serious change. Something I’m not used to seeing,’ Jefferson said. ‘It’s going to bring positive things to the neighborhood.’

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