Our Story

"The Red Pepper Story"

Facebook ConversationIn October 2011, Jaime K. was in the midst of preparing a recipe when she realized she needed a red pepper. By the time she left her home in downtown Bethlehem, drove to the nearest supermarket, purchased the pepper, and drove back downtown, 40 minutes had passed! Jaime took her lament to Facebook, where she found no shortage of empathetic friends.

Cathy was one of those folks who knew all too well how hard it was to come by fresh produce in downtown Bethlehem. Frustrated by the “food desert” she resided in, she commented on Jaime’s post, asking if anyone would be interested in starting a food co-op like she had been part of in Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Within hours, a meeting was in the works.

Just after Thanksgiving in 2011, a group of about 100 interested community members overflowed a public library meeting room, enthusiastic about the prospect of a grocery store in their neighborhood. Armed with the “How to Start a Food Co-Op” manual, Cathy, Summre, and Jaime led the agenda, which culminated in the group voting to move forward with the goal of opening a community-owned grocery store. That night, wired on community spirit, Colleen launched the co-op website, and the ball started rolling.

What We’ve Been Working On

In the first year, the co-operators worked hard to spread the word about cooperative enterprise, design a logo, establish a mission statement, research and educate themselves, network with other co-ops and organizations, and conduct a feasibility study with the assistance of Keystone Development Co-Op.

IncorporationThe following year, 2013, started out with a bang for the Bethlehem Food Co-Op as incorporation papers were filed and we became “legit.” Late winter and spring were a flurry of activity as we buckled down to prepare for our membership drive, which launched in July of 2013.

The years since have been filled with steady growth and achievements. We’ve established membership and fundraising milestones to keep us on track, and we keep our members posted as the process moves along. 

One of the great things about the food co-op world is that we are not in this alone. We are not reinventing any wheels - there are organizations available to us that specifically work to support start-ups such as ours, and there are literally hundreds of existing food co-ops and start-ups, eager and willing to help us whenever we ask.

At this point in the spring of 2020 we are 680 households strong, and have recently begun the lease paperwork on a location in the north downtown section of Bethlehem.

Since that very first Facebook conversation, the Bethlehem Food Co-Op has strengthened the community and provided opportunities for neighbors to get to know each other and take control of the quality of life in their town. It has been quite an exciting ride so far, and we cannot wait to turn our dreams into reality!


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