Frequently Asked Questions

About Food Co-ops

What is a food co-op?
It is a grocery store owned collectively and controlled democratically by its members.

What do you sell?
Whatever the members agree to stock! A main focus is local and very fresh produce for a great price. We expect to offer one-stop shopping, at a full-service facility. We have over 500 products currently in the store and are working to add more. Check out our current inventory list.

Where is the co-op located?
We are at 324 Empire Boulevard, near Nostrand Avenue. This space in the neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Lefferts Garden is located around the corner from the Sterling Street 2/5 stop and very close to the 43 bus and limited 49 and 44 buses. The post office is across the street.

Why a food co-op?
We feel that our community lacks adequate access to healthy, affordable food that we have control over.

Who is part of the co-op?
You--we hope--along with many other residents of Brooklyn who are interested in good food, low prices, healthy eating for all, and creating a community store. Anyone can be a member.

Why do I need to join?
Only members can shop at the store. Our co-op is a member-worker cooperative. Members will contribute work several times a year, but then can buy high-quality products at close-to-wholesale prices whenever the store is open.

How do I join?
First, attend an Informational Meeting or just fill out the member registration form. There is a joining fee of $25 ($5, if your income qualifies) and a refundable investment payment of $25-100 (depending on your income). Finally, you sign up for a work slot.

THE STORE

Is the store open?
YES! We have been open for a year. Our hours are limited, due to membership size.

What are the store hours?
We are open on Thursdays from 4 to 8:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feel free to stop by and look around!

Will the store carry [insert food item here]?
The store can attempt to carry whatever items the member-owners want it to carry! The store will need to make orders that are large enough to make the products affordable. For perishable food, we will need to sell enough of the product that it doesn’t go to waste.

Will it carry the same selection of products as my normal grocery store? We hope it will carry better products than your normal grocery store. We are aiming to have a full-service store, and to give members one-stop shopping. Remember, as owner you will get input as to what gets ordered.

What will prices be like?
Most items in the store are cheaper than in a normal grocery store. In other co-ops like ours, items are often 20% cheaper than in other markets. We only charge enough to cover our overhead costs (such as rent and lights). This is for two major reasons: the food co-op does not make a profit from selling your groceries to you and member work contributes substantially to reduce labor costs.

How is this similar/different from Costco?
Costco is similar in that it offers the lowest cost it can to its members by buying in massive numbers.

However, Costco is owned by a large corporation, not by its members. In a food co-op, members of the community make the decisions for the best of the store and themselves and the corporation (the co-op) does not profit. If we make a profit, then we must lower our prices to our members. This fine-tuned pricing keeps us aware of what our food costs. Costco’s owners sell whatever items they think will make them the most money; these may not be the healthiest or the best items. Other ways our co-op differs:
1. No recurring annual membership fees.
2. You don’t have to purchase goods in bulk.
3. You will keep community dollars in the community.

How is this going to be different from the Flatbush Food Co-op?
The Flatbush Food Co-op allows non-members to shop in its store, and has multiple prices for products, depending on who is buying.

How is this going to be same/different from the Park Slope Food Co-op (PSFC) model?
Our co-op uses the same member-worker approach as PSFC. In fact, if you are a PSFC member, you can work your PSFC shifts with us! (Contact us to learn more.) However, PSFC is not conveniently located for residents in our community. As well, it has so many members that you often have to wait to join and it is often very crowded. We want a co-op for our own community! Also, Lefferts Community Food Co-op may be different from the PSFC in the items on sale, or the services that it provides in order to suit our specific community’s needs. PSFC has been a big supporter and of great assistance to us and we are grateful that they are so eager to see other co-ops open in Brooklyn!

MEMBERSHIP

How much must I work?
Two hours and 45 minutes every four weeks. Some members prefer to work during a scheduled shift at the Co-op store, while others prefer a job with flexible hours that they will do at their convenience.

I prefer not to work because I am busy with family and job, and am comfortable paying more for my groceries. Why must I work to join?
When all members work for the co-op, we keep the store’s costs low, which helps lower food prices. This means each member can buy products at the lowest prices. Prices in member-labor co-ops, like the Park Slope Food Co-op, are often 20% lower than in other stores and even other co-ops.

Equality is important, too: our co-op does not want to divide its community into different classes of members with different “deals” (which would also take more administrative effort). Through shared work with other members, you have an opportunity to meet other people, take a break from your other routines, have a hands-on experience, and to feel a connection to the space and how it is run. And you and your neighbors will all have access to good food.

What work can I do?
Common workslots at the store include Receiving (taking deliveries and stocking the store), Shopping (cashiers and check-out), Office, Maintenance/Cleaning. Behind-the-scenes workslots include Outreach and Membership.

What if I have to miss my scheduled work? You may trade shifts in advance with another member. We expect members to give notice if you must miss a shift and to make up the missed work.

If I'm a member of Park Slope Food Coop, can I shop at Lefferts Community Food Co-op?
You must be a member of both food co-ops and work at both. We don't offer reciprocity at this moment because we need members to invest and work at our store. However, if you are a member at Park Slope and you join and invest as a member at Lefferts Community Food Co-op, you can work your shifts here and receive workshift credit at Park Slope (instead of working double shifts every 4 weeks). You should bank 2-3 shifts before joining this program and you will need to move to FTOP at Park Slope and continue working your shifts with us.

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UPCOMING EVENTS
GET INVOLVED
We need people to help with our planning and development process. Join a working group addressing both strategy and implementation, together with the board of directors. There is a project for anyone with any type of experience! Find out how to help »