BY PETER DORFMAN
Since January 2016, cashiers at Bloomingfoods’ three locations have been asking customers if they would like to round up their purchases to the next dollar as part of the co-op’s Positive Change program. And while it may seem like a small amount on any given purchase, when several thousand customers participate, that pocket change adds up. The first beneficiary was the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington, which received $4,689.
Charities are selected in an annual election by the co-op’s owner-members, explains Catie Schamel, Bloomingfoods member relations manager, and a different organization reaps the benefits each month. There’s no hard sell; signs are posted near the registers and cashiers ask customers if they want to round up.
“I started here as a cashier,” says Schamel. “So I felt I had realistic expectations for what we could ask our staff to do. They’ve each created their own system for asking. We’ve had great buy-in.”
In November, the pennies poured in for the Farm to Family Fund, which buys fresh produce at half price from local farmers at the Bloomington Winter Farmers’ Market, then distributes it to Middle Way House’s The Rise, Community Kitchen of Monroe County, and Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard. Positive Change raised $6,276.
“We’re totally run by volunteers,” says Janice Lilly, Farm to Family Fund director. “This gave us more money than we had ever had before to spend on food.”
The Bloomington Winter Farmers’ Market has also been a beneficiary; the program raised $5,087 for the market in January, allowing it to keep vendor fees down, says Market Master Bobbi Boos. And a record $8,696 was raised in April for Community Kitchen. “This donation is enough to provide nearly 4,000 meals for children and families in need,” says Vicki Pierce, executive director.
Positive Change is a member-driven fundraising program from start to finish. Each September, the Bloomingfoods member relations team lists charities on a ballot and co-op members vote to select recipients.
“Bloomingfoods supports groups committed to feeding the community—nutrition programs, local growers, and food security organizations,” Schamel says. “These groups are mission-aligned with us. We’ve always donated to community organizations, but we decided as an organization where that money would go. Positive Change is a way to let our members decide where we invest our money in the community.”
For more information, visit bloomingfoods.coop/positive-change.