Western Queens Food Coop Photo: WQFC’s community outreach event

Western Queens Food Co-op Addresses Food Access Inequality

4 mins read

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that in 2023, 33.2% of low-income individuals in the U.S. lived in food deserts. Inequalities in food security, nutrition, and health outcomes have led Queens residents to search for their own solutions, and the Western Queens Food Co-op (WQFC) believes they have found one. 

The WQFC is a democratic volunteer-based organization that is searching for ways to bring fresh, affordable food to Queens residents. Food cooperatives operate like a community center grocery store that aim to increase food equity within communities by giving customers a stake within the store.

WQFC co-founder Victoria Costa said, “The problem of affordable fresh food is structural and systemic, and it’s not being addressed, so we have to address it.” 

But opening a food cooperative takes time, and the WQFC has only been working on this process for two years. In contrast, it typically takes six to ten years for a food cooperative to open and usually requires a community of around 1000 to 2000 people.

 “Right now we have about 300 people who promised that they will shop at the food cooperative if it opens,” Costa said. 

However, it is important that the WQFC takes its time to ensure that its’ supply chain is ethical and that the, “People who make the food, farmers, delivery persons are not exploited,” Costa said. 

Each WQFC member has a stake  in the  cooperative’s operation. “They can decide what happens to the profit,” Costa said, “if we want to raise the salary of the workers, or if we reduce prices.” This is because the cooperative’s  goal is to build a community. 

Currently there are two food cooperatives in Brooklyn— one in Park Slope, one in Flatbush. This means people who live in Queens have to drive for about two hours to shop at one of these locations. 

Kyla Browne, a Senior Environmental Studies major at Queens College and former WQFC intern said,“My dad shops [in Brooklyn] but it’s not close. It’s about a two hour drive, but he still goes there because he has such a loyal relationship with the co-op,”

The WQFC has yet to select a location, but based on a survey that gathered over 300 responses from western Queens residents, the organization hopes to be close to public housing, such as the Queensbridge Houses. However, this would mean opening in Long Island City, raising concerns around potentially operating in a gentrified neighborhood.

“The food co-op should be for everyone, we want the people from the public housing to shop there, we really want to be that space where everyone can meet, and today the only space where people are together is the subway,” Costa said. 

The cooperative hopes to remedy this issue by having a bus that goes to several Queens neighborhoods, such as Astoria, Ravenswood, Woodside, and Elmhurst. 

This would prevent the co-op from only servicing one class of people or from being  confined to a single neighborhood. After all, the WQFC believes that equitable access to food should be available to everyone. 

If you’d like to get involved, you can sign up to volunteer with WQFC here

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