TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Several areas in Terre Haute, Vigo County, and surrounding areas are said to be food deserts, the historic 12 Points neighborhood happens to be one of those affected areas.

Jim Speer, board President of Terre Foods Cooperative Market says the market’s effort is to create a place where the community’s local producers can sell their produce.

“Like White Violet Center for Evo Justice and Kindred Roots and Royer Farms, all our local producers can sell through here on a daily basis. They (local producers) have the farmer’s market and that’s a great resource for the town but, plants don’t just produce fruit once a week,” Speer said.

For the last 15 years, the Terre Foods Cooperative Market has been busy working behind the scenes to bring a full-service grocery store, stoked with fresh, local ingredients to the Terre Haute area.

In 2021, the organization purchased a building in the 12 Points neighborhood, an area known as a food desert.

“We know what the maps say about food deserts, but we really don’t know how many people are not eating well because there just aren’t the best places to go,” Marsha Miller, Communications Chair for Terre Foods Cooperative Market said.

What’s a food desert?

“A food desert is where you cannot walk a mile and get fresh produce. And that’s definitely the case here. The closest thing that you can get to is Kroger, up north,” Speer said.

Food deserts offer limited access to affordable and nutritious food. When it comes to getting groceries in 12 points, the neighborhood houses a gas station and a Dollar General.

“That leaves the community in a difficult situation where they can’t get fresh produce, they can’t get healthy foods, and the best way to fill that food desert is to be a grocery that provides that,” Speer added.

Terre Foods Cooperative Market is made possible by supporters, volunteers, and their members. They currently have 848 members and hope to have 1,000 before they open. The co-op is member-owned. All members have equal voting rights. Officials say the best way to make the market a reality is by becoming a member. An equity share in the co-op is $200.  There are no monthly or annual fees for your share. Once you pay the share to become a member, you are an owner of the co-op. 

Speer said that they are about $90,000 away from their goal to finish construction and open the market. Leaders say they will start small by opening the front portion of their building as a store as well as a cafe. Eventually adding a commercial kitchen and extending the store into the remaining area of the 10,000 square foot building.

The co-op has taken some big steps forward including architectural plans as well as a plan review with the state.

“We’re working with some great local companies. Crossroads Electric, Lough Brothers Roofing which is actually just down the street, and they’re doing a lot of the construction work in the building. So, all the pieces are there. Now, the only thing that we need is actually money to be able to complete this. So, we’re at the stage of finishing renovations and we need funds for that. Buying refrigeration. We need funds to be able to do that. We’re probably buying those through B & B Foods, so again, a local provider for that. And we’re even at the stage of looking at products and what’s going to be on our shelves and being able to fill those shelves with that product,” Speer said.

Speer predicts that with those funds, Terre Foods could open in about two months. An opportunity to be open during this growing season. But all dependent on when they secure the final funds.

“We also want to be kind of the corner grocery as all these neighborhoods use to have before. So, people at Spencer Park, and Collette Park, have a place to come shop. And we don’t want to be an expensive choice for them. So, we are going to work to keep prices down overall and anyone can come in here and shop,” Speer said.

“We all need to eat better. And I can’t think of a better way to do that than with the cooperative market that specializes in organic materials from local producers.

While shopping will be open to anyone members will receive perks a few times a year.