By Prudent Ndiho
On December 11, the Portland Food Co-op presented a check for $7,552.16 to the immigrant-led nonprofit, Maine Access Immigrant Network (MAIN). Founded in 2002, MAIN works to help immigrants, refugees, and asylees access health care and social services. The Co-op, a 100% community-owned market, had raised the money raised in fall 2019 through its Register Round-Up program. Its members nominated a variety of nonprofit organizations and then, from the pool of nominations, the Co-op selected MAIN as the recipient of the fundraising effort. MAIN Executive Director Mohamud Barre and members of his team were on hand to accept the check.
“The Co-op is grateful to everyone who participated in the Register Round-Up program,” said Nicole Byrne, Portland Food Co-op Marketing and Community Engagement Coordinator. She explained that, at the register, customers are given the option of rounding up their bill to the nearest dollar. Some customers also make additional donations. Cultivating Communities, another immigrant-focused nonprofit, was a previous recipient of a similar gift.
The Portland Food Co-op’s mission is to be “a thriving, member-owned marketplace that strengthens the local food economy while building and nourishing community.” It has been operating as a retail store since 2014 and features over 200 local farmers and producers. Locally, the Co-op buys from New Roots Co-operative Farm and Fresh Start Farms, and they are a pickup spot for New Root’s CSA. In the summer/fall, they host a Fresh Start Farms farm stand on the patio. All purchases from that farm stand go to the farmers – the Co-op does not take a percentage from or profit from those sales. Recently, the Co-op added Rwanda Bean to their coffee selection. The Co-op is a participating location for the Farm Fresh Rewards program, which allows customers paying with SNAP/EBT to receive free vouchers to be spent on local fruits and vegetables. Applications for the Farm Fresh Rewards program are readily available at the retail shop in English, Spanish, French, Somali, and Arabic.