The Chester Co-Op is the only grocery store open six days per week in the city of Chester. Well-known supermarket chains, ubiquitous in most other parts of the country, have avoided the city, leavings its residents with little access to fresh fruit and produce. The last supermarket in Chester closed in 1994. The community-owned grocery store is a symbol of hope for many in Chester who demand their rights to food justice.
The Chester Co-Op is run by Tina Johnson of Chester, a longtime community activist for environmental justice. In an effort to give families some form of food security – the right to purchase healthy, and affordable food – Johnson advocates for food democracy and sustainable living.
While it once occupied a borrowed space in a jazz club, the Chester Co-op has now found its home in a new facility with improved food storage amenities. Johnson purchases wholesale fruit and vegetables from local farmers, in support of the local economy and regional food production. She also frequents the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce market for more options. Now, the Co-Op has a membership of more than 260 people who meet to set policies, volunteer, and take pride in self-sustaining and invigorating the community’s economy.
However, the Co-Op still faces many problems as a result of low funds. While it has now managed to acquire refrigeration, and shelving, the store has zero profit. Johnson must buy food to retail with the proceeds from the week before. A lot of the produce spoils from lack of proper storage, as the Co-op struggles with becoming a sustainable entity.
A poor minority community such as Chester is often inundated with many environmental and health risks. Many residents develop diseases as a result of the lack of food security and the finances required to obtain it. For some statistics on some of these issues, go to http://www.ejnet.org/chester/factsheet.html.
Go to: Community Grocery Co-op, 512 Avenue of the States, Chester, 610-447-1414, www.chestercoop.com.