In some areas of the UK social enterprises have been developed specifically to supply food co-ops with fruit and vegetables.
They also often supply other community-based organisations such as schools and children's centres, and possibly some commercial outlets such as restaurants. Examples include Food Chain North East in Gateshead, Community Food Enterprise in Newham and West Lothian Food and Health Development
These organisations have often evolved from small food co-ops or have been formed when different community food projects have joined together to make their food buying more efficient.
They tend to be based in areas where there is a wholesale market, as that is where many of them buy their produce and then deliver it to food co-ops who do not have their own vehicles.
However, a lot of these projects are now also making links with local producers in order to buy direct from farms. Social enterprises may be more willing than other suppliers to supply exact amounts or half boxes and may also offer sale or return.
In addition many of these projects have been specifically set up to provide not only the 'raw materials' but also have staff who can help develop and support food co-ops and offer training opportunities.
Case study - Food Chain North East
The Food Chain (North East) Community Interest Company currently supports over 60 local food co-ops and other community food projects across the north east of England. They are based in premises in the regional fruit and vegetable wholesale market, giving them access to a wide range of fresh produce. In addition they buy local produce from regional farmers and growers and are currently helping local community projects to produce food for use in food co-ops. They have their own vans with dedicated drivers who understand how food co-ops operate and a team of community development workers who can support communities to develop their local food co-ops at every stage. The Food Chain is able to buy in sufficient quantities to allow savings through economies of scale which allows lower costs to be passed on to food co-op customers.
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