Many food co-ops apply for funding to help cover some of their costs. A grant could help you get the equipment you need to get started or cover additional costs to enable you to expand.

However if you want your food co-op to be sustainable in the long term it is important not to be reliant on external funding, as generally funders want to support new activities and will not keep giving the same projects money year after year. Therefore if you are getting funding for your core running costs it's important that you have plans for how to cover these once the funding has run out, for example through generating income from sales.

In order to apply for any funding you will need to have a constitution and a bank account. If you are just starting up and don't have either of these things yet in some cases you may be able to apply through another organisation that can act as the accountable body e.g. a school or community group that you're working with to set up the food co-op.

Small grants - up to £1000

These can be very useful for getting funding for the basic equipment to run your food co-op. Student-led food co-ops can apply via our partner organisation, NUS, for start up costs of up to £1000 and ongoing support through the Student Eats programme. Often small grants schemes are also run by local councils or primary care trusts. There may be charitable trusts in your area that will support local community projects. Usually the application forms for small grants are quite short and not too hard to fill in and in general you won't have to do much monitoring and will probably just have write a short report after you've spent the money.

Medium grants - £1,000 to £20,000

These are available from the Big Lottery e.g. via Awards for All and also other Lottery-funded schemes e.g. Local Food Fund (NB the Local Food Fund is soon to be suspended so you only have until 21 August 2009 to put in a first stage application). Normally these schemes have quite a quick turnaround and so you will hopefully hear if your bid has been successful within about 8 weeks. The application forms and reporting procedures will generally be a bit longer than for small grants but should still not be too onerous, as you will only have to do an end of grant report, rather than reporting on a quarterly basis. Often it can be easier to get funding for capital expenditure i.e. buying items of equipment, vans, etc. than it is to get funding for revenue, e.g. paying salaries, rent.

Large grants - over £20,000

Generally if you want to cover the costs of salaries and get funding for several years you will need to apply for a large grant. Usually funders will prefer to give large grants to projects that already have some history of managing funding and so it is a good idea to apply for smaller grants first and apply for more money as you develop and expand. Applying for large grants requires a lot of time and effort, and they can take up to 6 months to complete, especially if you have to write a bid alongside doing your day-to-day work. You will need to put in a very detailed budget, come up with milestones and outcomes and possibly submit a business plan as well.

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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.

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