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.
Support our charity
Your donation will help us support communities to set up and run food coops and buying groups across the UK to improve access to healthy food.