Grocery store should accommodate students


Royal Purple Staff

The Whitewater community continues to express a strong desire for a grocery store to fill the gaping void left by Sentry in December 2015, but the success of that effort teeters in the balance based on the accessibility of the new option for cash-strapped student budgets.
The city seems to be riddled with angst and impatience in bringing a grocery store back to Whitewater. The community has since then relied on Walmart to sustain the community’s grocery needs. Many residents have expressed their displeasure with that reality at various Common Council meetings over the last couple years. One City of Whitewater Common Council alderperson, Carol McCormick, ran her campaign partially on establishing a grocery store to the city.
With the support of a $10,000 grant from the Whitewater Community Development Authority (CDA), more than 260 community members invested the $150 ownership fee to move the collective objective of opening a local food co-op forward.
Opening a food co-op would mean Whitewater would have a new option for residents to purchase groceries from, but we should not – and cannot – open a sustainable grocery option without the students’ participation.
The co-op should offer an option for students to invest in the enterprise with a lower cost. One could argue that Sentry went under because of its higher costs, and its inability to compete with lower prices next door at Walmart.
If the co-op is structured in a similar way that economically shuts out students, you might see the Whitewater Foundation scoping up another building.
The standard set-up of a co-op includes four sets of revenue: an initiation fee, the purchase of a share in the co-op to make one an “owner,” an annual fee to retain a membership and then on top of that, the cost of actually purchasing food at the store.
To a student who works part-time and likely makes anywhere between $7.25 to $10 an hour, that’s a far stretch.
Students should either be waived of initiation, share and annual fees all together on a one-year basis if they want to become a member, or receive a student-discount option that makes shopping at a co-op a feasible reality.
If students don’t have an affordable option in the co-op, the problem that shut down Sentry in the first place will persist. Students will continue to shop at WalMart. When a pocketbook is at stake, students would much rather spend a lower price on apples that came from who-knows-where than a local farmer.
We are living in an age where we are more likely to be environmentally conscious in our purchases. Farmer’s markets and locally grown options are a popular option with students, but one of those values – economy and environment consciousness – one is always guaranteed to win out.
To further worsen the problem, if the more permanent community of residents invests in a grocery option that is out of reach for students, you can be guaranteed the divide between the community and the students will deepen. We can’t think of a better way for students to find a way to resent the surrounding community than having them create a grocery option that is completely out of financial reach of students.
And then when it fails? We’ll be right back where we were when Sentry closed – students will get blamed for not shopping at the grocery store and opting for the local big box store option or continuing to take their money out of the community to Festival Foods, Woodman’s or Target nearby.
Because, whether the students and the permanent community like it or not, we are all residents of Whitewater, and shutting the other out of an economic resource is not going to be a sustainable business model.