KMXT’s Dylan Simard was joined by the Kodiak Harvest Food Cooperative’s Tyler Kornelis and Siene Allen to discuss the group’s long term plan to bring a new local grocery store to Kodiak.
Tyler Kornelis, President of the co-op, says that a recent grant will allow them to kick that plan into high gear.
“So we- the Kodiak Harvest Food Co-op is the recipient of what’s called the USDA local foods promotion program grant,” Kornelis said. “Those funds are specifically used by the USDA to develop, coordinate and expand local and regional food businesses really to create a connection between the consumer that’s purchasing the product with the producer that’s either growing or creating the product. And so that that project was recently awarded in- I believe- October was when we finally found out and so we’re just right in the in the midst of kicking off the logistical side of that grant implementation.”
Kornelis went on to explain how the idea to bring a food cooperative to Kodiak first started out.
“The initial kickoff was in about 2015 when there was an event called the Kodiak strong planning day. And I can’t remember– maybe 30 or so people came together. It was an event supported by a program called Healthy Tomorrows which was a program of Providence. And there were some priorities or community priorities that were developed that day,” Kornelis said. “And one of them was to create a food Co Op grocery store. I kind of latched on to that concept and project and was involved since that day. My involvement came because I was also working with a project called the Small Farms of Kodiak Archipelago, Economic Stability Through Food Security, and that’s a long title for a project that was aimed at starting farms in for the village communities around Kodiak. And so my kind of reason for being involved with the food Co-op was thinking, you know, how can these potential they were only potential and idea farms at the time. And now we’re five, six years later, and they’re actually farms that are producing food. But back then, I guess, I wanted to figure out a way where we can create a marketplace that they can sell the food in, in the city of Kodiak, so that their reach of customer base is larger than just the population of the village itself.”
The ultimate goal of the food co-op is to benefit local producers. Allen explained how.
“One of the things that people don’t realize, from the producer standpoint, is that a lot of these… the largest, say, like Safeway, or Walmart, the bigger the bigger companies that people are used to going to buy their groceries through. In other, you know, larger cities, we’re fortunate, we’ve got Costsavers, which is smaller, locally owned, but it’s very difficult for a small-scale producer to meet the insurance requirements and some of the packaging requirements that these larger companies require at the corporate level,” Allen said. ”
And so, for the co-op, because we don’t have that corporate structure and all these rules and stores across the country that we have to make sure we have a standardized process for, we’re able to be more flexible in who we work with. And it allows for us to provide opportunities for those smaller businesses, to begin to get their product out there and start to make a profit, and become sustainable as a producer or a grower or whatever their product is that they’re offering as a business. So that if they do and at some point, once you expand, they may be able to have the capital to do that. And if not, they can still have a market for what they’re selling. And it makes sense for everybody. So I think that’s one of the really big benefits that we’re able to offer for those smaller businesses.”
Those interested in learning more or becoming a member of the cooperative, can do so at Kodiakharvest.org.