BETHLEHEM – August 30, 2016 – Making fresh, local food accessible to all Christmas City residents is at the core of the Bethlehem Food Co-op’s mission to bring a community-owned grocery store to the city’s downtown. Fran Molinari, owner of Molinari’s restaurant, shares that passion and is partnering with the Co-Op on a new scholarship program to help families on the Southside take ownership of the Co-Op.

The Molinari’s Southside Membership Scholarship Program is available specifically to Southside Bethlehem residents. Two scholarships for co-op memberships will be awarded each year to families who complete an application and meet requirements. Residents can pick up an application form at several locations in the city, including the Southside branch of the public library, the Boys & Girls Club, and the Hispanic Center, or may download it at:

The selection criteria require that the winning recipient must provide evidence of financial need and answer a few simple questions on the form related to their home and community.

When Molinari’s restaurant opened on Third Street four years ago, owners Fran and Cheri Molinari wanted to bring the tastes they experienced back home in Italy to the Lehigh Valley with authentic dishes. They also wanted to develop a philanthropic program specifically related to food and hunger issues.

The restaurant donates a percentage of its profits each year to fund hunger relief programs abroad. It also sponsors a backpack program at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in the city that sends needy children home each Friday with backpacks full of food for their families to eat over the weekend.

Molinari’s also supports the “buy local” philosophy and attempts to source much of its food regionally. After seeing how his restaurant’s mission aligns with the Co-Op’s, Molinari approached the Co-Op about creating a partnership to fund an annual scholarship for Southside residents. The program will cover the one-time membership equity payment of $300 for two resident households each year. This opportunity helps ensure that all community members, regardless of financial resources, will have the opportunity to take ownership in the Bethlehem Food Co-Op and take advantage of all related benefits of membership.

“I’m active in my church and my faith motivates me to want to help others,” Molinari said. “We all have basic needs that have to be met to live a good life, and access to affordable, healthy, good quality food is high on that list. The Co-Op will make this a reality for downtown residents by bringing a full-service grocery store into the community that provides better food choices for everyone.”

Scholarship recipients will be announced in the fall and spring of each year. The first one will be announced at the co-op’s annual membership meeting on October 3.

“This program is essential in ensuring that our entire community can join in this movement,” said Colleen Marsh, Board of Directors Chairwoman for the Bethlehem Food Co-Op. “While everyone, member or not, will be able to shop at our grocery store once it opens, members have access to a range of exclusive benefits, including discounts, patronage dividends, and unique educational offerings. More importantly, as a democratically run business, members have a say in the Co-Op’s future through leadership opportunities and voting on key issues, including board elections each year.”

The Bethlehem Food Co-Op is owned by the community members it serves, will support local producers, and sustainable, humane, and natural food systems. Member-owners make a one-time $300 equity payment and receive many perks, such as an equal voice through Co-Op voting, opportunities for hands-on involvement, a community member discount program, and access to unique educational opportunities. Monthly payment plans are available to accommodate those who would like to divide up the equity payment. The Co-Op currently has over 340 member-owner households. The faster the Co-Op gains member-owners, the sooner the store can open to serve the community.

The Bethlehem Food Co-Op is a diverse community encouraging physical, social, and economic health by providing healthful, affordable food; emphasizing local, sustainable, humane, and natural food systems; and offering unique educational opportunities to the entire community. More information can be found at

Information Provided By:
Tracey Werner, Blabbermouth Communications