Many names are used interchangeably to describe a food outlet that is community led and gives people access to good food at affordable prices. We have used the term ‘food co-op’ because it implies co-operation which is all about people working together to achieve something they couldn’t do on their own.

Many community-run food co-ops are registered formally as co-operatives and sign up to the co-operative principles. The term food co-operative is also used to describe any type of co-operative business that is involved in producing or supplying food. 

However, over the last few years, the term food co-op has been used to refer to any community food outlet run on a not-for-profit basis for the benefit of local people. Not all of these community food co-ops have a formal membership structure and so do not necessarily meet the definitions of a co-operative. It is for this reason that many community-run food co-ops also go by many other names such as food clubs, social food outlets, food groups, or simply described by whatever they do such as a bag or box scheme, community market, fruit and veg stall or mobile store.

Our project supports both food co-ops and buying groups but these terms are also often used interchangeably. In some cases buying groups are defined as food co-ops that are run informally, for example by a group of friends, but there are also examples of larger, more formal, buying groups that also refer to themselves as food co-ops.

Given the variety of interpretations of food co-ops, it is important to bear in mind that this toolkit understands a food co-op as any outlet run by local people that is involved in supplying food for the benefit of the community, rather than for private profit.

To find more useful food co-op related information visit our homepage

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.

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