I love food. Food is central to my family, health and happiness. More than 10 years ago, I began coordinating my own food co-op as a way to connect with people in my area, save a little money and know that what I am eating is sustainably grown. I am grateful that during this time, more than 100 families have joined me on this journey.
What is a Food Co-op? A food co-op is essentially a group of like-minded people who purchase food together. It is unlike any shopping experience you will ever have at a supermarket.
Building this co-op from the ground up has created so much joy, for me, my family and those who are part of our community. Why do I do it? Four core intentions drive my efforts:
I explore each of these core intentions below. I encourage each of you to look into the co-op buying options where you live. On the surface, it may seem to be an old-fashioned type of community – something that may have existed when everyone grew stuff in their garden and it was shared around because you always had too much to finish. I am pleased to report- they are alive and well! In our ultra-busy world now, food co-ops offer a wonderful way to connect to other families in your community while also contributing to a sustainable lifestyle and providing the opportunity to support our local growers. This has never been more important than now in light of 2020’s bushfire season followed by the COVID-19 crisis.
Here are some musings from my experience of running my own co-ops…
It continues to baffle me how many of us don’t really know what’s in season or not. To be completely fair, supermarkets seem to stock all the produce under the sun all year round. This, makes it difficult to know what is in season unless you can be bothered reading the small print.
It is so important to eat seasonally. It helps us support the land that we live in, the people that grow our food, and it also keeps the money circulating within our local economy.
The most substantial benefit for you however is that produce is at its tastiest and cheapest when it’s in season.
Our farmers have pretty tough jobs. They need to keep us all fed despite all the elements throwing challenges their way whether it be excessive rain, wind, drought or fires.
Eating locally not only means that you are supporting the local economy, but it also means that you are able to find out more about where your food is coming from. This includes the story behind your growers. You can also learn about any sprays or pesticides that are used in their processes. In this case- ignorance is not bliss.
How many times have you cringed looking at the amount of packaging that is used in the produce aisle in supermarkets?
This produce has literally been plucked off a tree or out of the ground only to be thrown into a plastic punnet or wrapping. If we have managed shifting away from single use coffee cups to our own keep cups, then perhaps it’s time to initiate a shift in our shopping habits.
Co-ops purchase in bulk. The amounts are then distributed amongst its members. Consequently, food doesn’t have to come in pre-packaged quantities or in packaging. Members bring veggie mesh bags for loose produce items like baby spinach leaves or snow-peas. They can also bring their own reusable Tupperware or jars for pantry items.
A major plus is that food co-ops are usually hyper local for their members. This makes it a possibility to shop by foot rather than needing a car.
Being Part of a Community
Food co-ops are a wonderful way to engage local people and families within the same community. The connection starts with food, a necessity for all. Everyone within the community helps everyone else by purchasing whole boxes of food together and they shop at the same place. This forms a basis of connection, which in our fast paced world are sometimes hard to come by.
I have witnessed my own co-op evolving from just a pick-up point into becoming a place for local people to meet up and chat. It has such a fun social buzz while you shop. I can’t tell you how many conversations start over a box of potatoes.
These are just a few of my thoughts. The reasons here are the same reasons that keep both of my co-ops alive and thriving.
If you have a chance to be part of one in your area, I would seriously encourage you to consider it.
Something that does wonders for your pocket, supports the local community, supports farmers and hits sustainability goals must be pretty special.