In many ways, our values as a business align with those of a grocery co-op: dedication to supporting local farms, sustainability, improving the food system, and employee well being. Since co-ops are owned by members of the community, they also tend to be integrally connected to the communities they serve. Case in point: The Merc Co-op in Lawrence, KS. Founded as The Community Mercantile in 1974 as a bulk buying club, it grew and morphed as the town around it did the same. In 2001, it moved into its current 18,000 square foot location. Affectionately known in town as ‘The Merc’, it adopted this nick-name as its official brand name that same year and continued relentless efforts to serve the population of Lawrence by offering the freshest organic produce, carefully sourced products, and prepared foods, all at reasonable prices.
Beyond offering the best food available, The Merc seeks to educate and improve the lives of those around it via its non-profit, Community Mercantile Education Foundation (CMEF) which promotes personal health and well being and supports sustainable and local food systems. In 2010 the CMEF joined forces with their local credit union to launch Growing Food Growing Health, a program “dedicated to improving the health of youth by creating school gardens that act as living classrooms, inspiring hands-on education, and connecting students to locally grown fruits and vegetables to be enjoyed in their school cafeteria.” They now tend over 14,000 square feet on school grounds, and the produce it generates is either used by the school cafeteria or sold to help continue funding the program.
The efforts of this co-op grocer were also recognized by the National Co-op Grocers as the 2017 Sustainability Star in honor of their recent solar installation project, employee outreach program, and MercShare+, their needs-based discount program which has provided over $15,000 in assistance for healthy food access.
These community programs, along with their dedication to supporting those foods that are good for the planet and its inhabitants, make us proud to have our nut butters and bars on the shelves of The Merc Co-op.