Seed Grants

2018 Seed Grant application dates will be announced in May.
FCI will be awarding $50,000 in Seed Grants this year. Co-ops from urban, rural, and suburban communities will be eligible. The maximum grant award will be $10,000 and funds must be matched by the co-op from other sources.

starting a food co-op




The Seed Grant from Food Co-op Initiative

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. View the 2017  Seed Grant Informational Video here.

2017 Seed Grant Info for reference only – will be updated when 2018 application cycle begins.

2017 Rural Seed Grants
Applications CLOSED: window was June 19 through July 17, 2017.
2017 Rural Seed Grant IMageFCI is 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.
Considering applying in 2018? Download the 2017 Rural Seed Grant Info page to check eligibility and review requirements.


Urban Market Initiative 2017 Seed Grants:  REVISED 7/25/2017
Applications CLOSED:  window was June 28 through August 1, 2017.
2017 Urban Market Initiative seed grant imageFCI 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.
About This New Grant Opportunity
Food Coop Initiative’s Urban Market Initiative (UMI)  Seed Grants are part of a multi-faceted program to provide support and guidance to promising startup efforts in low-income, urban communities.  FCI is awarding $40,000 in Seed Grants for eligible low-income urban  cooperatives. The maximum grant award will be $10,000 and funds must be matched by local contributions. The program includes site visits, peer support networks, professional guidance, and a special gathering at the 2018 Up & Coming Conference.  FCI will be monitoring and documenting best practices and barriers, and sharing our findings through future training and publications. We will build a strong support network among participating co-ops and engage the expertise and experience of cooperative developers who are working in similar communities. To qualify for this program the site of your proposed co-op must be in an urban location recognized by the USDA as  Low-Access and Low-Income.
Considering applying in 2018? Download the UMI Seed grant info 2017 rev 7/25/17  to check eligibility, and view the USDA definitions and eligibility map,  and see requirements.

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

:earn more about items included in the Rural or UMI Seed Grant Programs on their info sheets, linked above.

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

These are the 2017 selection requirements . They may change for the 2018 grant cycle.

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. In addition, each applicant must meet the Rural or Urban requirements of the grant for which they are applying (see above.)

Thanks to our donors

Providing this type of support for communities 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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