Sustain / Good Food Enterprises / Food Co-ops toolkit
Food Co-ops toolkit
More and more communities are setting up food co-ops so they can get good food at an affordable price and have more control over where their food comes from.
Co-operation is all about two or more people joining forces and working together to achieve something they probably couldn't do on their own.
In the case of food co-ops a group of people join forces in order to buy foods they may otherwise find it hard to get hold of at a price they can afford. By volunteering their time and pooling their buying power they can get produce direct from local farmers or wholesalers.
This toolkit was originally produced by Sustain in partnership with Somerset Community Food, London Food Link, Newham Food Access Partnership, Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency, Food Chain North East, F3 and Co-operatives UK as part of the Big Lottery funded Making Local Food Work programme.
The Toolkit has since been updated as part of the Student Eats project funded by the National Lottery Community Fund's Our Bright Future programme.
For further food co-op related information visit our homepage
How to use the food co-op toolkit
This food co-op toolkit aims to provide an overview of the important things you need to think about when setting up and running a food co-op.
Choosing the right type of food co-op
Food co-ops come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in a variety of different settings, such as community centres, schools, universities, church halls or workplaces.
The importance of planning
Excellent planning is essential to setting up any new project, including a food co-op.
Does your community need a food co-op?
Before you start to develop a food co-op, you need to know if people are likely to use it and if it will suit their needs.
Who will run your food co-op?
Whether you're part of a small community group, a larger organisation or an individual who's decided to set something up from scratch, you'll need to think about the people you need to make your food co-op a success.
Where will your food co-op be based?
Where you choose to run your food co-op will affect its popularity and success. Most food co-ops use venues that are free (or very low cost), as otherwise they have to generate enough money to cover rent on an on-going basis.
Fruit & vegetable suppliers
Food co-ops across the country use a range of different suppliers. Some create direct links with producers whereas others buy from wholesalers.
Finding a supplier for wholefoods is relatively easy as there are a number of large wholesale suppliers who either make deliveries in a particular region or across the whole of the UK.
Equipment you may need
Depending on what type of co-op you’re planning to run (and the premises you have access to), you may not need to buy much equipment to get started.
Finances & admin
Food co-ops need to have good administrative systems to keep records of orders, sales and also contact details for members and customers.
The most successful food co-ops have simple procedures that are easy for everyone to understand and implement.
Governance, policies & principles
The policies and principles of your food co-op will define its ethos, how it is run and who is responsible for managing its activities, otherwise known as its' governance.
Legal requirements & regulations
Local authorities treat a food co-op just like any other food business.
Food Co-ops toolkit: The Food Co-ops Toolkit will give you all the information you need to set up your own food co-op.
Support our charity
Your donation will help us support communities to set up and run food coops and buying groups across the UK to improve access to healthy food.
More useful information:
Click here to download a PDF version of the food co-ops toolkit (3MB)
Click here to download our fact sheets on setting up food co-ops in different settings
Click here to view case studies on food co-ops.
Click here to visit our food co-ops map to find your nearest food co-op