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.

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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