Starting a Food Co-op in Your Community
Caring and Supporting Good Nutrition For Individuals on Limited Income
For many years we were able to provide affordable food for many individuals on limited income. Not only did those folks have food to eat but the lives of everyone involved were touched with kindness and hope — both volunteers and participants. We now offer consultation, experience, and helpful resources to community groups exploring this option for expressing compassion and support in their locale. Click on the links below for printable materials. Contact our office for more information from our co-ordinator. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 604-215-0335
Start Your Own Food Co-op
It’s easier than you think to have a food co-op in your community. Here are the materials we used to publicize and organize the food co-op.
- Food Packages and Program Information Brochure (pdf)
- Sample Shopping Inventory (pdf)
- Unit Pricing (pdf – spreadsheet format available upon request)
- Packaging Instructions Lists (pdf)
- Sample Collection Envelopes (pdf)
- Food Safe Practices Overview (pdf)
Sample database files for recording client information in ways that sort delivery routes, provide labels for boxes, and organize an inventory for shopping are also available upon request.
How We Operated Our Food Co-op
Anyone on a fixed or limited income was welcome to participate in food co-op. A typical co-op member would be one receiving income assistance, pensioners, someone entering the work force at a part-time salary with limited income, or someone experiencing financial hardship.
Orders needed to be made by the end of the day on Wednesday for delivery or pick-up on Friday. It was essential to know early if a participant was ordering because fresh foods were purchased for the number of individuals who were participating in co-op that week.
Pick up date
The co-op operated on Fridays. Food was delivered to designated areas of the city within fairly easy driving for our volunteers. Other orders could be picked up at the co-op or arrangements made for a convenient meeting place within the delivery areas. Delivery or pickups were scheduled in two time slots. It worked for us to use: 12 – 2pm or 2 – 4pm on Fridays. The Participant had be home during delivery times or arrange for someone to receive the food for you, otherwise the order was not delivered that week.
It was suggested that payment for the entire month be made right after “cheque day” so food was available throughout the month on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Payment had to be made in advance of receiving food. Payment could also have been made when food was picked up or delivered. Only cash or money orders were accepted, no cheques.
We did not offer food on a “credit” basis as we found that as soon as someone fell behind in one week’s payment, they didn’t order again because of that handicap. Rather than credit we encoouraged individuals to “come up with what you can” and we prepared a ‘special order’ box for that week so they had some food even if they couldn’t order a complete package.
- Discount: Because we wanted to encourage individuals to make provision for their needs throughout the month, we offered a monthly 10% discount for those who paid by the month.
- Free package: As well, for those who remained in the program, we offered the 13th week free. Once a quarter there is a “5th week” between welfare cheques and we applied the credit to that week.
Standard Package Contents
- Content set for cost: Costs of the food packages were kept to a minimum through bulk buying. Therefore, the contents of the packages are set. On occasion, minimal adjustments are made, if possible, for people suffering from food allergies.
- Combinations of packages offered for variety: However, any combination of food packages can be ordered from week to week throughout the month. For example, a $25 package could be combined with a $12.50 package. Or, a $25 package can be ordered one week and a $12.50 package the next week and so on. We sugested participants look in their cupboards and order packages based on what they need.
Rationale behind package contents:
- Amount and variety: All our food packages were based around what one individual on average would need to eat 3 meals a day for 7 days.
- Safe Storage: The food had to be able to be stored in a bar sized fridge (which is what most small rooms in the downtown offered).
- Cooking Facilities: All food items had to be able to be cooked on a hot plate or electric frying pan or toaster oven.
- Fresh not donated: All items that were listed on the brochure were purchased fresh because they were being sold rather than given.
- Donated items: Often, in conjunction with other community groups, we were given food items like bread and yogurt or juice. These were added to the packages as incentives.
Variety in Size of Packages:
- Reduced size: We prepared reduced-sized packages for those who were just beginning to build responsibility around food into their lives.
- Various in Packaged Items: (Meat, Fruit & Veggie, Variety, Low Carb etc.) Due to individual preference and to allow for certain items from the variety packages that built up in a person’s cupboards, we offered
- Family Sized Packages: We “sized up” boxes for families so they could buy what they could afford and also complement what they might otherwise be receiving at the food bank. (Packages became: Meat, Fruit & Veggie, Variety)
You can view the contents of those packages and program details at Printable co-op brochure (pdf).
Below you will find some testimonies and information about our food co-op. We offer it as seed to your own thinking and planning as you consider starting a food sharing program in your community.
|A Word From Alayne, Our Co-ordinator||Cathie Gives Back in Volunteering|
|Co-op Volunteers Explain Why They Come To Help||Dean Describes His ExperienceAs a Co-op Client|