Members of a food-buying club hope to open a bricks-and-mortar food co-op next year on the Near East Side, where it's tough for residents to find healthful eats.

Members of a food-buying club hope to open a bricks-and-mortar food co-op next year on the Near East Side, where it's tough for residents to find healthful eats.

Right now, Circle 77 includes about 50 families in the neighborhood who combine resources to purchase fresh food at wholesale prices. Together with nonprofit group Local Matters, the buyers hope to expand into a grocery store to aid those without access to quality fruits, vegetables, grains or dairy.

Local Matters, which works to transform communities through what they eat, recently received a $150,000 grant for the project from the Community Health Funders' Collaborative.

"We want to make healthier foods available to a community that lacks options," said Todd Mills, spokesman for Local Matters. "Our role is to bring more resources to the table through our connections and give any assistance or guidance that we can along the way."

The nonprofit currently is helping Circle 77 develop a business plan and find space for its new operation.

"From our perspective, it's the kind of thing we'd like to see replicated," Mills added. "Part of the goal with this grant is to test the idea."