The first thing you need in order to set up a food co-op is people who are ready, willing and able to get involved.

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. This may include:

  • Organisers i.e. people involved in setting up the food co-op and the on-going planning, such as a steering group or management committee.
  • Workers i.e. people, either volunteers or paid staff, who are responsible for the day-to-day running of the food co-op, and
  • Customers i.e. people who will be buying food from the co-op.

In consumer co-operatives the organisers, workers, and customers of the food co-op are often all the same people, as everyone has to become a member to shop there and also help to run and develop the co-op.  But in many community food co-ops nowadays these groups of people are more separate. Also a lot of food co-ops are open to everyone, rather than just members.

How you decide to structure your food co-op depends on what the people involved want (see Policies and Principles for more information this). However, in order to succeed any food co-op has to have enough volunteers or staff to carry out the work and enough customers to be able order sufficient quantities from suppliers and cover any costs.

The following pages in this section have more information on how to support volunteers.


It is a good idea to hold a public meeting or event to discuss the idea for a food co-op and invite along anyone who you think may be interested in helping out or shopping there. This may include friends or neighbours, parents at a local school, or other local residents.


You may also want to invite people from potential partner organisations, such as the local council, primary care trust, community groups or residents associations. These groups won't be directly involved in running the food co-op but may be able support it in other ways, for example by providing a free venue or training.

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