How the South Philly Co-op has become a reflection of its community amid COVID-19
General Manager Lori Burge and her team had to wait out the beginning of the pandemic to open but now operate as a vital resource for local food and goods.
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South Philly Food Co-op is a brand new local grocery store that offers affordable and local produce located in the heart of South Philadelphia.
It is the only community-owned grocery store in South Philly and is 10 years in the making.
“We wanted to be able to give to everyone in our community, we would have potlucks and community meetings to discuss the ongoing lack of food that some people were having, nothing was really affordable,” Lori Burge, the general manager at the store.
Burge and her investors started developing ideas and hiring construction firms to build the market that was going to become a dream in itself, but unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic demolished all of those ideas in early 2020.
“We also had so many supporters who were excited to check out the long-awaited market, we were set to open in the spring of 2020, but of course the virus happened and construction had to be stopped, all non-essential businesses were out of work,” Burge told Al DÍA News.
It was hard for her at the beginning of the pandemic because the market would’ve been a key resource in the community at the time for feeding its residents most in need.
“It was difficult to see people not be able to afford food and to lose their jobs,” she said.
Instead, Burge and her team had to wait for an ‘OK’ from Governor Tom Wolf to go forward and complete construction.
It culminated on Dec. 23, 2020, when the South Philly Food Co-op opened its doors and the community praised the freshly stocked store with meats and produce that was only sourced from local farmers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and other local areas.
“We were blessed to have many great partners to make the grocery store happen, we received a lot of funds like The Local Enterprise Assistance Fund, and PIDC funds and another fundraising,” Burge explained.
She has also made an effort to stand by the promise of equality and community by adding more Italian and Hispanic ingredients that her customers use.
“We offer something for everyone, we are a pretty small store but we are trying our best, we have different cuisines on our shelves and we also support other local businesses that cater to other small businesses,” she said.
Not only is Burge planning on adding more local and wholesome foods to add to the co-op, but she is also bringing more jobs to Philly by hiring over 13 staff members.
“Of course it is also vital to give back to the community by hiring people who have been affected by the pandemic, our profits are always going back to the community,” she said.
Please visit the co-op at 2031 S Juniper Street to shop healthy and local!
This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting as brokeinphilly.org.