Case studies

These case studies provide information on some of the wide range of community run food co-ops and buying groups that are currently running across the country.

City University

City Food Co-op team (see above photo) is run by Francesca and Marta who are postgraduate foodies from Italy, studying Food Policy, which looks at how food is prepared and consumed, and the consequences for our health and the planet; Marta is the Spanish-born marketing guru who is currently studying marketing at Cass; and finally Neha who is  a 'budding Health Psychologist' with experience working with the not-for-profit sector. 

"We’re all health-conscious students and we often find it expensive buying healthy, sustainable food on a student budget - and sometimes we feel we have to sacrifice our health, and our values as global citizens, for the sake of saving money."  

Being busy students they didn't have tome to keep going to different shops to find the types of staple foods they loved to cook with. So they set up a something to provide the convenience of a place on campus that offers a variety of sustainable foods which are relatively cheap, tasty and supports everyone in the production process. "That’s basically why we started the City Food Co-op - to make such a place become true!" explained Marta.

Francesca’s role at the City Food Co-op is logistics: she makes sure that all the orders are in place and that the food arrives on time. Marta and Martha are in charge of marketing and communication (check our fancy Facebook page), while Neha coordinates all of us.

Volunteering in the Co-op as been challenging, considering the burden of exams, but they have all got a lot out of it; not only how to manage their time even better, but also to leave nothing to chance when organising an event.

 "Working in a group has made us real pros in communication and mediation skills. Plus, talking with our clients has always been very inspiring and led to us making changes and opening new possibilities - as well as to question some of our own beliefs. And more importantly, we had a lot of fun whilst working on something that really matters for us"

Advice for someone who wants to start a similar project? Find a good ally among university staff and don’t get scared by bureaucracy!

Brighton University

Split over four campuses, Brighton University Food Co-op had become predominantly staff led and was in need of revival. A new core of students,  recruited during Fresher’s 2016, has transformed it into a thriving food co-op.

The Food Co-op is entirely volunteer led. It costs £1 to join and all monies raised go back into the Co-op. Everyone who joins is helps out for at least one hour per month.

For £4, members get a tasty box of veg (different every week) and choose the weeks they want to order. They also recently started to buy wholesale dried goods to complement the veg box.
Students designed a eye-catching logo and use t-shirts, canvas bags, email monthly newsletters and an inspiring seasonal online recipe booklet (check out the vegan chocolate beetroot cake!) to attract members.  They also hold regular events such as cookery classes, a pumpkin disco and food photography workshop. 

“The students are really excited and it’s great to see them have an opportunity to lead the Co-op again.”
Lisa Hartley, Sustainability Initiatives Coordinator

Students have made links with the Gleaning Network and their local Real Junk Food Project as well as visited local organic farms in their quest to source local and seasonal food.

For more info visit Brighton University’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

SOAS Food Co-op

The SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) food co-op in central London has a pretty simple aim - to distribute high quality delicious wholefoods to students and the local community at cost price.

Every week they place a food order with a local wholesaler and then spend the day hanging out, and scooping out grains from big colourful sacks to whoever comes their way!

“A really nice atmosphere - where there’s food there’s always community” SOAS participant

They sell rolled oats, red lentils, noodles, rice, apricots, pumpkin seeds, Ecover cleaning products, Keep Cups, and a lot more besides… and it’s almost all organic.

For more details visit their website.

Further case studies

All of the following case studies were written around 2012 but we think they are still worth looking at so have kept them available for you.

The following documents (compiled by Somerset Community Food in 2012) focus in particular on food co-ops in Somerset and on governance issues.




Join the Food Co-ops email list

Helping communities come together to buy good food.



Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.