The Wedge Community Co-op opened in South Minneapolis in 1974 and has operated in its current location since 1979. With more than 15,000 members today, the Wedge focuses on keeping its food as local and organic as possible—while also making sure that food is accessible and affordable. That's no easy task, but chief executive officer Josh Resnick said, "We want to break down the barriers to local foods."
They have been finding some interesting ways to accomplish these goals.
Here are three ways the Wedge stands out for innovation—and an honorable mention goes to the Wedge's coconut soft-serve, which has developed a cult following.
The Co-op Affordability Project. Also known as CAP, co-op members with financial need are able to save 10 percent on every purchase, every day. The program also allows people to pay an initial investment of $10 in order to become an owner in the co-op, and then subsequently pay the remaining $70 through their patronage refund earnings.
Warehouse and cross-docking. The Wedge has operated its own organic warehouse since 1999, but a couple years ago it tacked on a delivery service for local farms. The trucks colocate perishables from farms and, for a small fee, deliver them to clients around the state. That includes co-ops and retailers (Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is one client), as well as restaurants. This saves time for farmers and decreases the overall transportation carbon footprint.
Cafe meets natural foods bodega. The Wedge recently opened a smaller-format store, located about a mile from the flagship Wedge in a neighborhood with more foot traffic, that serves coffee, juices and prepared foods. It also operates as a "natural foods bodega," providing the convenience of prepared foods and some standard groceries without having to make a trip to the full co-op. With the customer base split down the middle between co-op members and nonmembers, the cafe also seems to be serving a need for fresh, quality and convenient food in the neighborhood. Is also opens space at the Wedge: it does all the food preparation that was once done in a dedicated kitchen at the co-op, 1,800 square feet it can convert to retail.