Mobile stores or home delivery schemes
Food co-ops sometimes set up mobile stores or home delivery schemes because they want to cover a wide area, perhaps where there are either lots of urban estates or rural villages that have no other shops.
A mobile store will usually operate in a similar way to a stall, displaying trays of different varieties of produce that must be weighed out individually. Customers are normally able to go on to the van and choose what they want.
This differs slightly from a home delivery scheme, where orders will be placed in advance – and customers either order exactly what they want or place a regular order for a bag or box with a selection of fruit and vegetables (see Bag or Box Schemes).
Most mobile stores or home delivery schemes will operate on a daily basis visiting different locations on different days of the week. They will also have premises where they can store produce from one day to the next.
The main advantage with mobile stores is that it can be less time consuming to have a van that visits several locations rather than having to set up and pack up stalls in lots of different venues. For schemes that cover a large area it also means that they don’t have to spend lots of time finding suitable venues that they can use and recruiting lots of volunteers to run stalls or pack bags in each location. For customers who live in remote locations or who find it difficult to get to stalls when they are running, it may also be much more convenient.
The main disadvantage is that you’ll need enough funding to buy a van, and will also need to spend more money on fitting it out if it is going to be used as a mobile store. You will also have running costs to cover fuel, road tax, vehicle insurance, etc. Also mobile stores and delivery schemes often employ paid drivers to ensure a consistent service, rather than relying solely on volunteers. Note: these issues will arise with any food co-op needing to use a van to collect produce or run several stalls.
Case study: Herbie Fruit and Veg Van
This initiative was set up by MERCi to provide affordable, fresh fruit and vegetables to residents living in areas of East Manchester (Miles Platting, Ancoats, Collyhurst, Ardwick, Clayton and Gorton) with poor access to fresh foods. Herbie operates like a mobile greengrocer. Customers can walk on board and choose from a good range of affordable fresh produce. The food co-op also supplies boxes of fruit to schools and works closely with local schools, sheltered housing, churches, health clinics and resident groups to ensure that it reaches as many people in the local community as possible.