The Bethlehem Food Co-Op is a group of neighbors working to open a community-owned, full-service grocery store in the north downtown area of Bethlehem. Our store will be open to all shoppers, and will feature healthy, nutritious, locally-sourced products. Even now, we are also working to give back to our community – and support it – through educational, environmental, and social justice initiatives.
We are over 770 households strong, and looking forward to announcing our location soon. If this is a good time for you to consider membership, become a member today and help us make our co-op a reality!
The BFC Story:
“The Red Pepper Story”
In October 2011, Jaime 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.
The Bethlehem Food Co-Op is a diverse community encouraging physical, social, and economic health by providing healthful, affordable food; emphasizing local, sustainable, humane and natural food systems; and offering unique educational opportunities to the entire community.
What is a co-op?
Simply put, a co-op is an independent, democratic organization owned, operated, and financed by its members, committed to the people it serves and the communities in which they live. Some examples you may know: REI (sporting and camping goods), Cabot (cheese), and State Farm insurance.
Like Minded Groups and Individuals
Although our store is not yet open, we are fortunate to have established a number of important partnerships with other community organizations, farmers, retailers and businesses.
This list is a good source of like-minded groups and individuals!
We are also proud members of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Bethlehem Association.
Why do we need a co-op?
We have health food stores, farmer’s markets, CSAs, and supermarkets.
Our food co-op
- will be a year-round, full-service option to purchase locally-sourced food and products (farmers markets and CSAs – community-supported agriculture programs – are seasonal)
- will serve as a focal point for information and gathering in our community
- will give back to our community
- will support and serve all the neighbors in our community
- will provide quality employment opportunities in our community
How did co-ops come about?
Early human societies cooperated by sharing hunting, fishing, farming and shelter practices to improve their chances of survival. As people moved from farms to cities they were no longer able to grow their own food, and they relied on privately owned stores where the prices were high and the selection was limited.
As less powerful members of these new cities, the workers, consumers, farmers, and producers banded together to gain economic clout. They improved their options through joint purchases of supplies and services and kept their costs low. They became a co-op—a business run by the people, for the people.
How do co-ops operate?
Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. Cooperatives trace the roots of these principles to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844.
You may hear these principles abbreviated to, for example, “P6”.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
2. Democratic Member Control
3. Members’ Economic Participation
4. Autonomy and Independence
5. Education, Training and Information
6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
7. Concern for Community
Can anyone shop at the co-op?
Yes! Our co-op will be open to anyone who wants to shop there, even non-members. However, members will receive many perks, like special prices and discounts, access to classes, and being able to walk in like they own the place (because they do!).
What can I buy at the co-op?
The co-op will be a full-service grocery store, providing enough variety and selection for the average customer to complete their weekly shopping trip at the store. We plan to emphasize local, sustainable, humane and natural food systems, so you can have faith that you are purchasing great products and you will know where your food comes from. You will be able to find everything from basics such as toilet paper and bread to specialty items like vegan delicacies, gluten-free products, and fancy cheeses.
Will the co-op have affordable food?
Yes! It is part of our mission to bring affordable food to downtown Bethlehem. We have a number of ideas in the works for how to keep prices down, such as a basics program with little to no markup on core products, working directly with farmers, bulk bins that will allow you to buy as much or as little as you need, and member specials and discount days where members will receive even better deals than usual.
Will the co-op have free parking?
Part of the process when choosing our store location is to select a site that provides not only for free parking, but that is also close to a major bus route and on a safe cycling route so that folks on ALL sorts of transit have access to our store. And of course many of our neighbors will be able to walk to it!
Is there an annual fee after joining the co-op?
No! Your household or organization becomes a full member in our co-op by making a one-time equity payment. There are never any additional fees.
Can my children share my membership card?
Membership in the Bethlehem Food Co-Op is defined by household, so yes, your children and any other members of your immediate household are included under your account! For organizational memberships, two designated representatives will be authorized to shop on behalf of the organization.
Can I work at the co-op to help cover my membership costs?
At this time, each member household or organization must contribute the same amount of financial equity into the co-op. This ensures that our co-op is equitable. However, we realize that making an equity payment could be a challenging situation for some potential members, so we do offer monthly payment plans to make sure membership is accessible to all. We also offer scholarships for income-eligible households. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if this interests you.
Will the co-op accommodate folks with special diets?
We’ll have food for everyone at the co-op! We welcome diverse dietary choices and will strive to carry the products that our members want to purchase.
The Bethlehem Food Co-Op board is elected at the annual membership meeting on the first Monday of October, per our bylaws. The following individuals are the current team of leaders working hard to bring a community-owned grocery store to our community.
We also have a number of committees and teams that work on specific projects for our organization: check out these volunteer opportunities.
Kelly is a Professor of English at Northampton Community College and Coordinator of the NCC East 40 Community Garden. In addition to his faculty and administrative roles, he is also the the co-founder and manager of the Farm Market at NCC, the 2014–2015 chair of the NCC National Endowment for the Humanities Agriculture and the American Identity, and Project Director of Food in the Public Square, which was an examination of food culture in the Lehigh Valley.
Presently he is working on the development and growth of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op’s Community Hubs Program. The line that divides his personal and professional interests is often blurred. He has a deep commitment to social, agricultural, and environmental justice, all of which he tries to address in the classroom and in his day-to-day life.
Board Vice Chair
Heather and her family have lived in the City of Bethlehem for the past 12 years and are pioneering members of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op since its incorporation in 2013. She is the Executive Director of a local healthcare organization, promotes organic gardening at home, and recently expanded gardening into her work-life by encouraging her employees to build several raised vegetable and flower beds.
She earned her Real Estate license six years ago and enjoys helping first-time home buyers in making their home ownership dreams a reality. She believes in supporting local farmers and businesses in order to strengthen the community and is passionate about opening a food co-op in her hometown of Bethlehem. Her first co-op experience occurred years ago when she visited Ithaca, New York’s GreenStar Natural Foods Market, witnessing the similarities between the cities of Ithaca and Bethlehem. Throughout the years and weekend trips to Ithaca, Heather dreamed of being a member of her own food co-op.
Heather previously served on the Bethlehem Food Co-Op’s Real Estate Committee in an effort to research properties for the future co-op home. She is interested in the physical plant location in order to bring food to local residents who may not have the means to easily access quality food. Heather enjoys spending time in the great outdoors with her family, specifically hiking, kayaking, biking and gardening.
Board Interim Secretary
Deb is a retired National Service Representative, having traveled around the country training volunteer leaders in her work for the National PTA for 13 years; previously she had been a volunteer for the PTA for 30 years. She has lived in West Bethlehem for almost nine years and has five grandchildren. She is also active in her church, where she has been a choir member and served as a trustee. Deb enjoys her flower gardens, yoga, motorcycle riding and spending time with her family.
Says Deb: “I am an avid conservationist with a strong belief in protecting the environment. I became a member of the co-op because I have seen the critical need to promote healthy lifestyles utilizing locally grown products, as I view my community as part of a larger family. I look forward to working with the board to create a healthy, sustainable grocery which will enhance the nutritional needs of our community, while developing an educational/ informational platform to support future generations.”
Domenic is a resident of the north downtown area of Bethlehem – where our new store will be built. He joined the co-op in June of 2017, and volunteered with the Finance Committee before being chosen to serve as treasurer, and then elected to the Board in October 2020.
He has a BS in Computer Science from Bloomsburg University and an MBA from DeSales University. He has held a number of leadership positions for large companies in the Lehigh Valley, and is currently leading the Cyber Security Team at Lutron Electronics.
Domenic writes, “I am an amateur, albeit passionate, cook, gardener, and home brewer who is equally passionate about locally sourced organic food. I believe that having a thriving local food system is essential to our community’s health – physical and economic – and to the sustainability of our environment. Affordable access to locally sourced food should be available to everyone and I am excited to be part of the team that will help the Bethlehem Food Co-Op play this important role for our community.”
Kathy has resided in Bethlehem since 2010 and has been a member of the co-op since 2014. Besides joining the BFC, her passion for the environment has also led her to joining or starting other organizations which believe in sustainable living and protecting the earth for future generations. She is a former member of the City of Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council and current co-chair of the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women’s Environmental Committee.
She believes food is our first medicine and makes an effort to shop at farmer’s markets, organic farms, local health food stores, and grows her own organic vegetables and fruit in her yard. She looks forward to shopping at a community-owned, full-service grocery store in downtown Bethlehem. Kathy also has a passion for swing dancing, specifically the Lindy Hop, and is always looking forward to the next dance.
Cindy grew up in Bethlehem, attended local schools and graduated from Moravian College. She is a retired corporate affairs manager, experienced in corporate communications, community relations and grant making. Cindy continues to be active in the community, currently serving as vice president of Touchstone Theatre, and as a member of the Investment Committee at the United Way and of the Rotary Club of Bethlehem.
Cindy became a member of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op because of her interest in locally grown food, strong belief in the importance of farmland preservation and strengthening the local economy. She loves to garden, enjoys participating in community events and relaxing with a good book. She has two grown children and cherishes time with her twin grandsons and visiting her two grandchildren in Arizona whenever she can.
Tony is a Bethlehem resident, and joined the co-op in the summer of 2020, although he says he has been interested and following our progress since his friend Elliot Nolter became secretary of the board.
He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Culinary Management and was the Chef/Owner of Innovative Mobile Catering, which operated in Pittsburgh from 2012-2017. For the past two years he has been serving as the Chef/Secretary of the Portuguese American Club of Bethlehem.
Tony shares: “I believe that I have a very unique skill set that provides creative, innovative and sustainable ideas to create an amazing experience for the members/shoppers of the BFC. My passion for food and hospitality has taken me on many adventures throughout my career. I love to share my talents with the co-op and help provide delicious and healthy food to the community. I am dedicated to working with the other board members in any way to ensure that the BFC comes to fruition!”
Elliot is a registered architect and Certified Passive House Consultant. He is the owner of East Spruce Design/Build, an architecture, fabrication, and construction management practice based out of his home in Bethlehem. Through his work and in his personal life, Elliot promotes environmental responsibility and a sustainable, healthy lifestyle whenever possible. He believes we can do more with less, and that a self-sufficient community is a strong community, even in the world-wide economy in which we exist. His interest in the Bethlehem Food Co-Op stems from these values, and a yearning for healthy, local food options that support Lehigh Valley farmers, businesses, and neighbors.
He currently serves on the Negotiations Committee and strives to translate his and the co-op’s core values into a brick and mortar grocery store, we can all be proud to call our own.
A lifelong organic gardener, Carol has a special interest in a community-owned grocery store in downtown Bethlehem with many healthy options for all. She is enthusiastic about supporting local providers and educating the community about sustainability and local impact.
Carol was born and raised in Bethlehem and is the co-founder of Caroltalks.com. She is an award-winning professional speaker, fundraising strategist, executive coach, featured writer, and small business and non-profit consultant. Carol has presented to over half a million educational, non-profit, and small business leaders nationwide. Her team has raised millions of dollars for Lehigh Valley non-profits and has developed strong, innovative boards and committed volunteer teams.
Carol currently serves on the Steering Committee for Lehigh Valley Reads and the Zoning Board for the City of Bethlehem. Formerly, she served as President of the National Speakers Association in Philadelphia and as board chair for St. Lukes Hospital VNA and Hospice. Her awards include Pennsylvania’s Speaker of the Year, Most Likely to Succeed in the Speaking Business and recently the “Good Scout” award given by the Boy Scouts of America.
Here’s how to get in touch with us:
Bethlehem Food Co-Op
P.O. Box 58
Bethlehem, PA 18016
I LOVE THE CO-OP