Invest in a healthy future with a Purple Porch Co-op membership
When I check out at Purple Porch Co-op, the cashier always asks me if I’m a member-owner. For the longest time I would think I probably should be, but assumed there was a monthly fee or that I wasn’t hippie enough. After being asked this same question over and over and over again, I decided it was finally time to look into the details of membership.
I was surprised to find out that membership requires only a one-time $200 payment. They’ll even let you pay a little at a time and offer a discounted membership for low-income families. The membership can be used by your immediate family, but only the legal member-owner of record is allowed one vote, meaning you get to have a say in the direction the business takes.
Member-owners get a monthly 10% discount off a store purchase once per month, receive weekly product specials, and can get a 10% discount when they order a full case of one product. But really more important than discounts is how much becoming a member benefits our local community.
I was convinced I wanted to become a member-owner when I realized there is no monthly fee, but my husband Dan asked for a bit more convincing. Thus I decided to chat with as many member-owners as I could to make the case for joining this little food community.
I went to a local beer and wine tasting event at Purple Porch a little while ago with my friend Lindsay and we enjoyed sipping a few brews and chatting it up with local business owners and foodies. When we arrived, we were greeted by member-owner and board member Molly B. Moon, and after grabbing drinks we stood chatting with Becky Reimbold, owner of Just Goods, and Michelle Hebron of Hebron Farms. It felt good to stand and listen to these women.
Molly and I set up a time to discuss why I might want to become a member-owner over lunch at Café Max where Purple Porch serves lots of delicious local fare. Molly called Cafe Max “a very good farm-to-fork restaurant — 90% was raised or produced locally.” Member-owner April Lidinsky joined us for lunch. April is also the director of women’s and gender studies at Indiana University South Bend.
They told me a little bit about how Purple Porch came to be. What started as a system for a small group to order local produce and products online (for pickup on a purple porch) in 2009 has grown to a grocery store — dubbed a local food hub by the USDA — with more than 585 member-owners, a small café, Wednesday-night farmers market and more.
In her velvety voice Molly (also a local musician) pointed to the good the co-op contributes to South Bend. “The pleasure of helping create the kind of society, community you want to live in — that’s really big — it is the antidote to helplessness and frustration.”
She suggested I think of membership as an investment in the future. “Ten years down the line when we’re as big as Whole Foods, you may actually make a couple bucks off of it. Think of it as a long term investment — emphasis on LONG.”
April further emphasized the community impact of shopping local. “It’s fun to learn where your food comes from,” said April. “That experience of meeting the farmer and thinking about deliberately changing your shopping habits is really important. I love seeing Chris Hebron walk in the door and knowing he just gathered those eggs from his chickens.”
Chris Hebron, producer and Purple Porch board member, told me by email that he loves the direct interaction he gets to have with customers and member-owners like April. “We have helped people find local producers and built friendships that will last forever,” said Chris. “It also keeps local money in the community.”
Becky Reimbold, owner of Just Goods, echoed these sentiments by email. “We had been looking for ways to source more of our food locally. Organic growing principles are really important to us as well,” she said. “A group of individuals has come together to create something that is not only good for the environment and for personal health, but that also feeds our need for human relationships.”
As my lunch with Molly and April was wrapping up, I asked them: what is the most compelling reason we should become member-owners of Purple Porch?
April answered: “Part of what we’re talking about is cost. Our food is often more expensive, but when you learn about the cheap food at the grocery store — animal cruelty, transportation costs to the environment — and then consider our health. It’s a major cost to us and our community if citizens are not healthy. When you change your eating habits you are making a huge investment in your future. When you’re 70, you want to enjoy life and feel good. Purple Porch makes it easy. You don’t have to sort through a ton of confusing food choices. The food is already curated for you.”
I do most of our grocery shopping at the South Bend Farmers Market, Oh Mamma’s on the Avenue, Bamber’s Superette, DC Meats and Purple Porch. At Purple Porch we buy baking supplies, like organic flours, oats and chocolate chips. We also buy Honey From the Hood, an assortment of sauces (including Hobo Jim’s hot sauces), local frozen fish, butter, bulk goods, fermented foods from Farming for Life, and some personal care products like deodorant and toothpaste. We also buy a wonderful, low-priced organic chicken broth when we haven’t made any at home. I try not to buy too many produce items that aren’t local, but if I need a lemon or bananas, I can grab that at Purple Porch too. And I also love the Wednesday-night farmers market where I can chat with producers and buy interesting produce and local meats.
I don’t think it will be long before we become members. Go see what you think for yourself. Purple Porch Co-op at 123 N. Hill St. is open Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. -7 p.m. And every Wednesday from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. the co-op is transformed into a little farmers marketing featuring many local producers. You can also order for the market day online.
Get a peek inside the store on Google Maps!