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New Orleans Food Cooperative Grand Opening 

  Last week, the New Orleans Food Cooperative (2372 St. Claude Ave., 656-6632; celebrated the grand opening of its new grocery, which the group says is Louisiana's first community-owned food store.

  The event was billed as a party to introduce the new 4,800-square-foot store to its neighbors and to recognize the community investment that made it possible. The first Food Co-Op meetings began back in 2002.

  Elizabeth Underwood, outreach manager for the Food Co-Op, says the store represents "a great opportunity for people to build relationships with the source of their food and to know where their food is coming from and how it got here."

  Anyone can shop at the store, but the Food Co-Op is supported by "owner/members," who each make a financial investment to join. Before the store opened, there were about 1,800 paid Co-Op owner/members. Since opening, the number has grown to 2,100.

  "Before, most of our owner/members joined online, but since opening, 90 percent of the new ones have invested at the register," Underwood says.

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