Seed Grants

Update: The 2017 application window is June 19 through July 17, 2017.

starting a food co-op




The Seed Grant from Food Co-op Initiative

Application materials and updated webinar will be available in early summer. Learn more about the Seed Grant application process by reviewing the archived 2016 Seed Grants grant materials

Food Co-op Initiative Seed Grants were created to provide early development capital for retail food co-op organizing groups that wish to partner with us in their endeavor of starting a food co-op. In addition to the grant award, we will commit to regular follow-up and assistance with your team.

Seed Grants Can Make Starting a Food Co-op Possible

SoLA Food Co-op 2016 Seed Grant Awardee

2016 FCI Seed Grant awardee SoLA Food Co-op raising co-op awareness and membership.

Grants are given in amounts up to $10,000 when funds are available*. We depend on the generosity of other organizations to support this grant program and only a limited number of awards can be offered. The grant money must be matched in equal dollars by the newly forming co-op. These matching funds are usually raised through membership equity and other community sources.

Awards are granted after review of all applications. This is a competitive process, as we receive more applicants than we can fund every year. If you do not receive a seed grant we will continue to work with you and support you through the steps in starting a retail food co-op.

*2017 Preliminary Seed Grant Info

Rural Seed GrantsFCI will be awarding $50,000 in Seed Grants for rural cooperatives. The maximum grant award will be $10,000 and funds must be matched by local contributions.
Funding is provided by the USDA Rural Cooperative Development program, and to qualify for a Rural Seed Grant, your co-op must be in a location recognized by the USDA as rural. Their definition is a community with a population less than 50,000 and not contiguous to an urban area. You can verify your eligibility here:
Urban Seed Grants: FCI did not receive funding this year to support our usual Seed Grants to urban communities. However, we have received special funding from Capital Impact Partners and the Blooming Prairie Foundation to sponsor a new research and support project for co-ops in low-income urban communities. We will be offering Seed Grants only to co-ops in urban areas that meet specific eligibility requirements for this new program. Eligible co-ops must be located in low-income, under-served areas within large urban cities.  More details will be available soon.

Using  Seed Grant Funds

Seed Grant icon smIn past years Seed Grant funding has been used to help offset the cost of feasibility and marketing studies, hiring a project manager,  covering the cost of Up & Coming food co-op conference attendance, and supporting owner/member recruitment and investment projects.

As an integral part of the Seed Grant award, co-ops will receive

  • Up to $10,000 for approved project costs
  • Access to peers and training
  • A site visit and consultation from a Food Coop Initiative specialist
  • Priority access to our resources and specialists

The Seed Grant amount must be matched 100% by locally raised funds. Grants are paid as reimbursement for expenses, not in advance. Grant activities must be completed within one year of the signed contract date.

Selection Criteria

The 2017 application window is June 19 through July 17, 2017.

Seed Grant icon smApplicants must be developing a retail food cooperative organization, and fully understand the cooperative structure, values, and principles. They should be working under a consumer (owner/member) cooperative model. They must be incorporated as a cooperative or in another manner and operate under bylaws and policies consistent with the International Cooperative Principles. They should be able to articulate a clear vision and have organized a strong, committed team to their endeavor. Priority is given to co-ops with a high likelihood of feasibility, potential for significant community impact, and evidence of strong partnerships and support.

While the 2017 Seed Grant Applications are not yet available, you may review the 2016 application form for planning purposes. More info on the 2016 application process, which should be very similar in 2017, is explained here: Seed Grant Info 2016. The 2016 webinar about the seed grant application process has been removed. There will be a 2017 informational video available shortly before the application process begins.

Thanks to our donors

Starting a co-op would not be possible without the generous donations from our individual contributors and the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Program, the Blooming Prairie Foundation, and donations from food co-ops across the U.S.

Help Support Our Seed Grant Program

Startups are the seedlings of the retail food co-op community, and our Seed Grants are a great way to nourish them. Donate to the FCI Seed Grant Program today.

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