Abstract: A Group of Newark Women on Welfare Have Found a Novel Way to Cut Food Costs—They've Opened Their Own Grocery Store

Kendra Boyd


In 1967, black consumers in Newark, New Jersey, were tired of paying high prices for inferior products, having to buy on credit, pay outrageous interest rates, and continue to be stuck in a cycle of debt. The frustrations of female welfare clients resulted in them forming a buying club and operating a cooperative, not-for-profit store. By operating this cooperative store, these women constructed a critique of the state for failing to adequately provide not only for welfare recipients, but also for the black community as a whole. They were also critical of the exploitative business culture that capitalism allowed. These welfare clients were making a statement: that in the age of mass consumption, they had the right to consume in a fair and free market. If the government and enterprises would not facilitate this, they would make it happen themselves. This buying club and cooperative store was one way these women sought to meet the needs of poor blacks in the city, and make a step toward full economic citizenship. The operation of this cooperative store shows how the ideologies of self-help, self-determination, and community development that thrived in the Black Power era were pragmatically applied to the lives of everyday people.