A Food Cooperative is a member-organisation for the purpose of collecting and distributing food among the members.
Food-cooperatives are great examples for setting up a complementary food-system and to increase sharing in your locality. These create a viable alternative to the supermarket driven economy, and are organized on a neighborhood level.
Cooperatives can have a shop or open space for members or guests to buy the food. But the coops can also be run by regular meetings for members to collect the food.
There are multiple ways a food-coop could be organised.
- A Workers' Model where a member contributes time.
- Two levels of Membership, with a lower membership fee for members that volunteer time. These coops can also have a possible third level for “guests”, who only interact with the cooperative occasionally.
Around the World
There are many food-coops in the United States and Europe, most notably in Berlin and Barcelona.
There are several self-organized food cooperatives in Barcelona. Most of them work with rotating shifts with different people taking care of different tasks each time. They often have connections with several small farmers in the area around the city and bring in food once a week. Often, the food is organic but the farmers don't have the money to get an official certificate.
Setting up a Food-Coop
Setting up a Food Cooperative is less harder than it seems. There are often more people interested in setting it up than you think in the first place. Getting a group of people together would be the first logical step. A call for an open meeting in a public space, by which you provide more information about the benefits of a food cooperative, is a great way of meeting like-minded people.
Another important step is setting up connections with local (organic) farms and getting a legal framework. After an initial meeting these are tasks that can be distributed among the people who want to get involved.
To start going, you don't need much. All you need is members who pay upfront, place orders and someone to collect the food and distribute it again. This can all be done on a volunteer basis. This could then organically grow into a cooperative with a legal framework and more structure. This process could be as complex and time consuming as starting any business. To set it up properly could take two years. As with any new business, starting a co-op will involve thorough and careful planning.
- Foodcoopedia - a wiki on food cooperatives in germany
- Nine steps to starting a food co-op - a guide on how to set up a Food Cooperative