What is a co-op? Why should I shop at one?
A co-op (short for cooperative) is a business that is owned and controlled by the people who use it. Shopping at a co-op puts money back into the business or distributed as Patronage Dividends to benefit the members directly.
Do you accept SNAP benefits?
Yes, we proudly accept SNAP benefits (also known as Food Stamps or EBT). We even aim to participate in a program where you can use your SNAP benefits to get free local produce. We will reach out with updates on our progress with this program.
Do I have to join to shop at the store?
Everyone is welcome at FSFC and Member-Ownership is not required to shop. While member-ownership is not required, becoming a member-owner gives you a unique opportunity to support and collaborate with your local community.
What are the benefits of being a Member-Owner?
By joining the Fare Share Food Cooperative, you are helping to ensure the success of our locally-owned grocery store that provides you and the entire community with access to safe, high-quality, local, natural, and organic food and household products. The store will succeed and grow with your support!
How do I become a Member-Owner?
You become a Member-Owner by purchasing a Common Share, which is a one-time equity investment in the Co-op. The cost of a share is $75. We also have a payment plan available broken down into 3 quarterly payments of $25 each and a low cost option for low-income individuals. This is not an annual fee. Once you buy your Common Share, you are an owner of the business and get a vote in decisions brought before Member-Owners. A printable version of the enrollment form is available online. It is also available in the store.
Can anyone join?
Ownership is open to any individual 18 years of age or older. We have payment plans and low-income options for becoming a Member-Owner to ensure that ownership is accessible to everyone.
Is there a work requirement?
Everyone can shop with no volunteer expectation. If you are interested in volunteer opportunities to support FSFC, please reach out to our Volunteer & Community Engagement Coordinator.
Is Member-Ownership for an individual or a family?
Member-Ownership is individual. The Member-Owner and any member of his or her household may make purchases from the Co-op on the terms available to that Member-Owner, which includes receiving Member-Owner sale prices on designated products. However, it is only the individual Member-Owner who may vote in elections and run for the Board.
What types of payments are accepted?
Cash, checks, credit/debit cards, and SNAP Benefits (according to state guidelines) are accepted for all product purchases. To purchase an Common Share, we accept cash, checks, credit/debit cards, or money orders. Proof of assistance is required for purchasing an equity share using the low-income option. Email us for more information. Please note that SNAP benefits (also known as Food Stamps or EBT) may not be used to purchase an equity share.
How do the payment plan/low-income options work?
To ensure that ownership is accessible to everyone, a share may be paid in three installments of $25 (the first payment will be submitted with the application). You will receive the full benefits of member-ownership from your first payment. If you are receiving public assistance, your equity investment is reduced to $7.50 for as long as the individual receives that subsidy. Government assistance includes: SNAP Benefits (also known as Food Stamps or EBT), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, WIC, General Assistance, Family Health, and Section 8 Housing. To activate the low-income option, the Member-Owner provides a copy of their eligibility letter from DHHS (or the municipality if receiving General Assistance), their Member-Owner Application, along with a check and mail it to 443 Main Street, Norway, ME 04268.
Please note that if you are on a payment plan, your $25 installment payments are due every three months until you have reached $75. If you choose to delay a payment, your Member-Ownership is put on hold until you make that payment. To vote your equity payments must be current.
Is my Member-Owner investment refundable?
If a Member-Owner decides to leave FSFC (divest from the Co-op), your Common Share is refundable. To request to divest from the Co-op, contact us and you will receive a form to fill out and return. A member-owner leaving the Co-op is also allowed to donate their equity to the Co-op or transfer it to a new member-owner. Contact the Board for info about any of these options.
What are the rights and responsibilities of a Member-Owner?
Co-op member-owners invest in FSFC to support the viability and growth of the cooperative. Each member-owner is a stakeholder in the business and is entitled to the voting and decision-making rights as outlined in the FSFC Bylaws and as determined by the Board of Directors. This includes voting in Board elections, running for a position on the Board, and voting on other important matters.
What is a patronage distribution?
A patronage distribution (PD) distributes the Co-op’s excess profits to its member-owners in years that it generates more profit than is needed for healthy operations, staff compensation, asset maintenance, and loan repayments. The amount of the rebate is proportional to the amount of purchases the member-owner made from the Co-op that year.
Will my Common Share change in value over time?
Your Common Share will not change in value and does not bear dividends.
Where will my money go?
Equity is used to support the growth and viability of the Co-op.
What is the role of the Board of Directors?
Fare Share Food Cooperative is owned by people in the community—over 400. Having that many owners trying to directly manage a business would be cumbersome. Instead, the member-owners elect a Board of Directors to govern the organization on their behalf.
The Board of Directors is responsible for the overall governance of the Co-op. Directors are elected every spring and serve three-year terms. The Board meets once a month, and board meetings are open to all member-owners. Those interested in running for the Board are strongly advised to attend at least one board meeting to learn more about leadership within FSFC.
An important role of the Board is to hire and oversee the General Manager, who runs the day-to-day operations of the retail store. The Board is also responsible for the long-term vision of FSFC. While the current retail store is the most tangible product of the organization, the Board is always seeking ways to expand the positive impacts of the Co-op on our member-owners and the community.
Board meetings are currently held in The Commons at 447 Main Street on the 4th Tuesday of each month, from 3:30–5:30pm. All Member-Owners are welcome to attend. Please always check the Co-op calendar to ensure that a Board meeting has not been moved or rescheduled. If you would like to be on the agenda at a Board meeting, or if you have any questions about the Board, please email us.
Our Legal Name has changed from Oxford Hills Food & Nutrition Exchange Inc. (DBA Fare Share) to Fare Share Food Cooperative (FSFC). Effective Date 1/1/2019
Our incorporation status has changed from a Maine Non Profit Corporation to a Maine Cooperative to ensure alignment with our business practices and principles. Effective Date 1/1/2019
Our pricing structure has changed to a one-tier system. The decision was based on the importance to clearly and effectively communicate our prices to member-owners and other customers. It will also help the staff to more effectively manage the inventory, which could result in better pricing. The opportunity to offer quarterly member-owner discount days are now available as well. Completion expected by 1/31/2019.
Member-Owner Investment levels. We are moving away from a sliding scale. The Board has approved a $75 Investment Price ($7.50 for low income individuals and households). This investment can (although not referred) be paid in three installments. Dues will not be collected in 2019. Effective Date 1/1/2019
Bylaw changes were approved by member-owners in 2019, including:
Sharing its profits with all the member-owners of FSFC that are in good standing and are shopping at FSFC.
Better capitalization of the organization through additional, non-voting, investment opportunities including the ability to purchase Series A, B, and C Shares at $75, $750, and $7,500 respectively.
Reduction of the cost of capitalization by providing an inexpensive, tax-free method of raising capital.
More Questions? Email us and we'll be happy to assist you.