In the face of supermarket domination, rising fears about food security and climbing food costs, an ever-growing number of local food purchasing cooperatives are forming around the UK.
These new models of food distribution are being established – in community centers, farm sheds and school halls where rent is free – to cut out the middlemen and provide local communities with fairly priced food. They aim to rebuild lost ties between the countryside and cities, and to encourage a return to more traditional trade routes.
The schemes work by finding suppliers and collectively covering the costs to buy products in bulk. The smaller co-ops only purchase products requested by the customers, while larger organizations function like markets, or establish their own shops. Certain co-ops encourage customers to become members, asking a small fee for shopping there and sometimes offering a say in how it is run.
Dan Dempsey, the manager of a project launching food co-ops in Wales, uses the term ‘trust trading’ to describe this kind of food distribution. Over the past three years Dempsey, with his team of workers, has helped to establish 180 food co-ops which supply 6,000 families, with a turnover of roughly £1m (150 million US Dollars).
‘We’re cracking the system… Supermarkets don’t have to dominate,’ Dempsey said.
Other co-ops currently running in the UK include:
Unicorn Grocery, Manchester
Just Trade, Lewes, East Sussex
St Andrew’s Food Co-op, London
Food For All, Bristol
True Food Co-op, Reading
Trealaw Food Co-op, Rhondda Valley, Wales