Are you tired of paying too much for sub-par food items from your local grocer? Does the idea of eating foods laden with growth hormones and pesticides leave you frustrated? If you enjoy eating whole healthy foods and also appreciate saving money, purchasing foods from a local cooperative is a great alternative for you.
What is a food cooperative?
According to www.sustainable.org, food co-ops are “volunteer organizations owned and controlled by members to provide low cost, healthy food primarily to members of the co-op, though some also sell to the public.”
How does a co-op work?
A food co-op is comprised of a group of people who desire to use their combined purchasing power to buy desired food items directly from distributors, thereby circumventing the “middle man”- the grocery store. Members of the co-op then purchase the items for a small (5-15%) markup from the wholesale price. Some co-ops also sell to non-members at a somewhat higher cost.
Co-ops raise money to cover costs of transportation of goods and maintaining a building or drop-off point by charging annual or monthly dues to its members. Membership fees are generally low, ranging from $5 per year to $10 per month. Many members get discounts on their membership fees by volunteering for the co-op. This aspect of a food co-op is essential, as co-ops do not pay workers. Volunteers may deliver foods to other members, cashier, package and refill products or take care of bookwork and ordering from distributors.
What is available for purchase from co-ops?
Food cooperatives are great sources for organic, healthy, whole foods. Most cooperatives provide staples such as whole wheat flour, oats, beans, dried fruit, nuts, cheeses, organic snacks, preserves, pastas, rice and cereal. Many also sell spices, herbs and candy. Other items which require minimal processing may also be available.
Why is shopping at a co-op good for the environment?
When Americans sit down to eat a meal, on average, the items on their plate traveled 3,000 miles to reach them. The vast majority of grocery store items are shipped from the far reaches of the country, or from another country altogether.
On the other hand, food co-ops obtain their items from local farmers and growers, reducing the amount of fuel and factory work required to prepare foods for purchase, as well as reducing the amount of packaging that will end up in local landfills. Purchasing foods from cooperatives is a smart step toward “going green.”
For a list of Food Co-ops in your state, visit.