BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A community food cooperative in Bismarck is making progress on addressing its debts.

Last October, the Bisman Community Food Co-op owed vendors more than $236,500, with more than $42,000 of that owed to local producers.

General Manager Carmen Hoffner told The Bismarck Tribune that the co-op has been paying off up to $3,000 of its debt each week.

"The store has come a long way," said Larry Reiker, who runs the co-op's meat department. "I think we're on the upswing."

The co-op was opened with the intention of giving local shoppers a place to buy healthy, locally grown foods.

Hoffner said the co-op has switched to a new principal vendor with lower prices and quicker delivery. It had to cut back on staff and product ordering, but it's now operating under budget.

"Our nose is above water," said board member Tracy Potter.

Even with the trouble of owed bills, some small, local vendors have been willing to wait for their money because the co-op is a great opportunity for them.

"I can make more selling to the food co-op than I would at a farmers market," said vendor Mirek Petrovic, who runs Slavic Heritage Farms with his wife.

The co-op plans to hold a producer meeting in March to address issues as the summer approaches, according to Hoffner. It also has applied for grant funding to pay for marketing materials to grow its customer base.

Its calendar is also loaded with events to attract new shoppers.

"We're so confident we've come out of this stronger," said board member Beth Schatz-Kaylor.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com