As we settle into the new fiscal year for the Willy Street Co-op, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on what an amazing year it was for the Co-op. This was the first full fiscal year both stores had been in full operation, and the Middleton location blew me away with its continued growth in new Ownerships. The Co-op currently has close to 30,000 active Owners. This number includes staff, cooperatives, and non-profit organizations. This number also includes over 1,400 Owners who qualify and use the Co-op’s Access Discount, which entitles them to a 10% price reduction on all of their purchases, and a reduced annual installment structure for paying their Fair Share of equity.

What is Access Discount?
The Access Discount was established by our Board to provide greater access to nourishing foods for our community by offering a 10% discount on purchases.

The provision to provide the Access Discount was born out of three of our Global Ends policies that are:

  • A.3: WSGC is a cornerstone of a vibrant economically and environmentally sound community.
  • A3.3 Persons of all ages and economic groups view the Co-op as an important resource for their well-being.
  • B.8.2. Facilitate the participation of low income persons by providing alternative payment plans for purchasing a Fair Share and by offering purchase discounts based on financial need.

The Board is to be commended for creating and maintaining this progressive, thoughtful and altruistic benefit. When enacting the provision, the Board’s reasoning for providing this benefit included:

  1. To sustain our cooperative and mission, for generations to come.
  2. To continue to provide access for those who are living on low incomes.

The discount provision has had to evolve over the years, and now that we’ve expanded to two locations, it is my duty, among other things, to audit and monitor all Owner records, update information and manage applications and renewals for the Access Discount benefit. The Willy Street Co-op is one of very few co-ops that are fortunate enough to be able to afford to offer this benefit to Owners who qualify.

Renewal
To sustain this benefit for the very long term and to avoid sharing personal information at the registers, we will begin renewing all Access Discounts at one time, during the month of March (starting March 2013) at the Customer Service desk. However, until November 1st, we will continue to ask that all Access renewals be confirmed at Customer Service when we plan to have our systems updated to reflect the changes. Currently, the Access Discount renewal date coincides with the Owner’s equity due date. After this change is implemented, any/all current Access Owners who were enrolled before January 1st, 2013, will be sent a renewal letter on February 15th, 2013, which will be sent to their address on file. During the March renewals, the Customer Service desk staff will be assisted by Cooperative Services staff in order to keep this process as easy as possible for everyone. At the time of renewal, we ask Owners who are using the Access Discount to show us any current eligibility documents to verify them for the benefit and ensure consistency in our process.

Accountability
Another modification in the application and renewal process will be to communicate a clear statement of accountability between the Access Owner and the Co-op. Unauthorized use or sharing of this benefit jeopardizes our financial ability to continue to offer it and the Owner’s right to receive it. The Co-op is able to offer this benefit to individuals or households, however businesses and/or organizations are excluded.

The following is the current list of recognized agencies/programs for receiving the Access Discount benefit. Along with the name of each agency are the necessary enrollment materials we ask to view/verify their eligibility at the time of renewal and applications.

  • QUEST/Food Stamp Program (Current grocery receipt/Balance receipt with EBT Card)
  • Medicaid (BadgerCare or SeniorCare) (Forward Card, along with enrollment confirmation letter)
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC) (copies of current vouchers)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance/Community Development Authority (HUD) (Verification letter from the Property Manager OR Social Worker)
  • School Breakfast or Lunch Program (for free and reduced-price meals only; annual notification letter from the school)
  • Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (WIC) (copies of current vouchers)
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program (for free and reduced-price meals only annual notification letter from your childcare Provider.)
  • Social Security Disability Insurance/Social Security Disability/Supplemental Security Income (Enrollment letter from Social Security Administration)

The new Access Discount brochure can be found at the Customer Service desk at both locations. If you have questions that are not covered by this brochure, or if you would like to provide comments or suggestions, please give me a call (251-0884 ext. 734). My office hours are Monday through Friday 8:30am–4:00pm.

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