RIFA’s Food Co-op Provides Community

The RIFA Food Co-op program provides a community-based approach to building food security. By participating in the Food Co-op, members receive ⅓ to ½ of the food that their family needs for the month. However, the ultimate goal of the Co-op extends past the food that is distributed and is focused on the community that is developed within the group.


Members give monthly dues that is collected in order to strengthen each member. The funds go into an account that the members use at their discretion. In addition to monthly dues, members also meet monthly for classes on budgeting, healthy eating habits and fellowship. Also, each member of the Food Co-op has a role to play from food distribution coordinator to treasurer. This gives each member a sense of purpose and ownership over the success of the group.

The process of implementing this program at RIFA began after Community Outreach Coordinator, Legon Roberson, became acquainted with the book Toxic Charity by Bob Lupton. The book describes a food co-op that made an impact on the dignity of a low-income community. Roberson was then motivated to bring the concept to RIFA, where she serves as social worker for those in food insecurity. “I saw a lot of beauty in the way that the gifts of the members were utilized and made important,” Roberson explained. Our staff knew that we wanted to see those same results for our clients that we serve at RIFA.

Meet Ms. Patricia

The very first RIFA Food Co-op group was formed in October 2017 with 7 members. One notable Food Co-op leader is Patricia Shaw, a refined addict who credits RIFA for motivating her on the road to becoming clean. “[RIFA] had helped me, but [RIFA] they don’t know how much they helped me.” Patricia utilized the Soup Kitchen frequently during her struggle to sobriety and was able to find a community to help her in the journey of sobriety. Now seven years clean, she is living a vibrant, active life and is learning how to build a healthier life for her family.

After a few health issues, Shaw was looking for healthier food options. It was then that Roberson asked her to be a part of RIFA’s pilot Food Co-Op ministry. A little reluctant at first,  Shaw finally decided to join. And she is glad that she did. The Food Co-Op has helped her tremendously since developing diabetes and high blood pressure. She has learned what foods are good for her, how to read food labels and try healthier recipes. “I know what to eat now,” Shaw said.

Mrs. Shaw has a heart to help others. This past Christmas, Shaw initiated the idea to use the Food Co-op dues to help the homeless in the area. “She was the person who came up with the idea for the group to use their money they had raised through their monthly dues to purchase hygiene packs for the people in the Soup Kitchen this past Christmas,” Roberson stated, “which was one of the most impactful experiences I have had at RIFA.”

Her commitment is shining a light on those around her. “Ms. Patricia is truly the light of the Co-op. She has a constantly bright personality and she loves the Co-op,” Roberson said.

And this is the assistance that Roberson hopes RIFA Food Co-op gives those who join—empowerment, dignity and strength. Non-Food Co-op members can help by donating and volunteering their knowledge. Food donations are important. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a huge help. If you have areas of expertise such as healthy eating, budgeting, overall health balance, you can come in and do a presentation for the Food Co-op members to help build their knowledge.

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