Filling Bellies in Richmond Food Desert
From the California Center for Cooperative Development
The four members of Liberty Ship Café will launch their cooperative business in January and fulfill a self-pledge for autonomy. When sisters Gloria and Rosa Menjivar came to the Bay Area six years ago, supporting family back in their native El Salvador was top priority. Since then, their focus has shifted to raising family here and working to empower their East Bay community in volunteering at the Richmond Latina Center. For Rosa, shared ownership of the Liberty Ship Café is key: “This is not just about making money,” says Rosa. “This cooperative is the chance to be empowered in our life choices and to give good food to our community.” Still, as single mothers whose English is at base-level, this journey is a struggle; for them, the success of this business in which they set the rules is essential.
Co-op members have been preparing for business start-up for over a year by engaging in small business and food service trainings and cooperative education sessions. Members meet weekly to develop their business plan and test recipes.
The co-op needs your financial help! Starting the first Friday of January, members will begin sales of healthy and hearty soups, salads, sandwiches, and baked goods from a farmers’ market in the food desert of downtown Richmond. Their ultimate goal is to sell out of a mobile food truck from which they can serve the Richmond community and achieve financial self-sufficiency. They hope to earn and fundraise for a down payment for a truck. But the funds needed to purchase this truck are hard to come by, so members will continue working to expand their small-scale operation to reach this goal.
The members of Liberty Ship Café are giving their all to developing the business that will best serve the needs of their community, but raising enough money by selling in a low-income food desert area is a challenging process. Unless the project receives outside funding, it is unlikely that the café will be able to purchase the truck in the near future. Your donation will go directly towards the down payment on the mobile food truck that will allow the members to serve their community and have sufficient income to support themselves and their families with dignity. Any amount helps!
Liberty Ship Café is part of a worker co-op incubator project that CCCD is developing in Richmond. The city has an unemployment rate more than 17 percent; the incubator will develop worker cooperatives to create employment, job security, and improved livelihoods.