Since opening in Spring 2015, Durham Co-op Market has committed itself to being a cooperative that reflects the Durham Community. As part of this commitment, DCM offered all Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) participants a 10% discount on purchases. Fast forward to today and this founding commitment is getting a boost from members in the form of a new program called Round Up. DCM shoppers are asked if they would like to round up their total purchases to the next dollar, with the combined funds pooled and used to fund the SNAP discount. Since beginning the program in December, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. in fact, DCM has raised the SNAP discount to 20% until the end of February.
According to the USDA, which oversees the SNAP program, some 46.5 million Americans, including nearly 800,000 North Carolinians, receive benefits from this program. It is a critical part of the social safety net for lower-income persons.
While the discount will be offered depending upon the ongoing Round Up results, DCM General Leila Wolfrum is confident it will stick. “It’s my expectation we’ll be able to continue it, and we’re really proud of it,” Wolfrum said. “It feels very much like what we were founded to create: a community that leverages the generosity of people.”
SNAP shoppers are eligible to receive the discount through DCM’s Food for All program. This program offers co-op membership at a discounted rate of $15. “That comes with the full rights of co-op ownership. They get to vote for candidates of the board, and they can run for the board,” Wolfrum shared.
Like many other food co-ops, DCM is focused on sustainability, local sourcing of foods when possible, and delivering high quality food and a full line of organic and natural foods. This can raise somewhat of a barrier for lower income shoppers, who have limited dollars to spend on food.
That’s why offering discounts to SNAP recipients both at checkout and in terms becoming a member is critical. And it’s working. More shoppers are using the discount, and the Food for All memberships are rising.
According to Wolfrum, the membership piece is perhaps the most critical of all. “We want to make sure we are not only offering them a discount but incorporating them into the cooperative community,” she says. That effort to broaden the membership reflects DCM’s other primary focus area in addition to sustainable practices and healthy, high quality food: serving the Durham community.