To keep costs as low as possible, food co-ops usually rely on volunteers to carry out much of the work.

Many food co-ops are run entirely by volunteers, whereas others (generally those operating on a larger scale) have some paid staff and are supported by volunteers.

The approach your food co-op takes to volunteers will probably depend on how your food co-op has been set up. For instance, some food-cops are set-up with the support of an existing organisation such as a primary care trust, housing association, environmental group, or school. These usually have paid staff to help oversee the food co-op. Such food co-ops will also often already have volunteer policies and procedures in place.

If your food co-op is solely driven and managed by volunteers then it is a good idea to encourage everyone to play an equal part in decision-making and running the group. You will need to recruit enough committed members to make the co-op work and avoid burdening one or two individuals with the majority of the workload. One way to ensure this is to establish a policy which requires that all food co-op volunteers work a certain number of hours a month. However, as the food co-op grows you may wish to designate certain members with specific responsibilities, such as managing the orders or handling the money. Another useful role is to have someone whose main task is to co-ordinate the tasks of other volunteers.

Many food co-ops that are run by, or in partnership with, an existing organisation such as a children's centre, school or community centre that will already have volunteer policies and procedures in place. If this isn't the case you will need to ensure your recruitment and management of volunteers is carefully worked out with policies in place to ensure both you and your volunteers get the most from the experience. There is a wealth of information to support you with this on the NCVO website.

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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