The term food co-op is used to describe lots of different initiatives and so everyone has a slightly different interpretation about what a food co-op is.
Many community-run food co-ops are registered formally as co-operatives in which case they 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, the term food co-op has over the last few years come to be used to define any community food outlet run on a not-for-profit by 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 describing whatever they do, for example operating 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.
Therefore in order to simplify things in this toolkit we have used the term food co-op to describe any outlet run by local people that is involved in supplying food for the benefit of the community, rather than for private profit.