2008 updates on food co-ops and buying groups
Maresa ran a workshop on food co-ops at the South East Fresh Ideas Network event and gave a presentation on funding at the London food co-ops event. Maresa has also started to edit and compile the food co-ops toolkit, which is scheduled for release in Spring. The fourth issue of the food co-ops newsletter has been sent out to over 200 contacts.
To support food co-ops and buying groups in London, project officer Suzanne Natelson's work has focused on consolidating the links between London's food co-ops and assisting with their marketing and publicity work. Working with the Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency, Suzanne organised a networking and training meeting for 10 food co-ops in London, including some Primary Care Trusts (PCTs). Since this meeting Suzanne has established a food co-op email group and organised a publicity drive to help promote community food projects in London including food co-ops.
Making Local Food Work project officer Maresa Bossano has been developing links between food co-ops to improve information-sharing and learn from good practice. This included:
- Taking representatives from the North West who are planning to set up new food co-ops to visit successful food co-ops in Bradford.
- Giving a presentation on Making Local Food Work at the North East Food Access Forum, and a talk on food co-ops to Crowhurst Community Supported Agriculture.
- Organising an exchange visit to Dublin Food Co-op with 12 people involved in running food co-ops from across England. The group also visited several other food initiatives in Dublin including community gardens and food markets.
- Helping to organise the first meeting of the Local Action on Food Network and contributing to development of content for its new web pages.
- Liaising with the Well London team who will be working with food co-ops in London, particularly through the Buy Well project managed by Hannah Williams, who has joined the Sustain team.
In London, Maresa has also worked with Sustain’s project officer Suzanne Natelson, who has been researching food co-ops in London, with some of the food co-ops agreeing to participate in marketing trials. Research into needs assessment has involved contact with a variety of organisations and national bodies in England, Scotland and Wales, and culminated in a London-wide food co-op training and networking event in October organised with the Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency.
Electronic food ordering system
Together with fellow MLFW project officer Clare Horrell, Maresa met with Local Food Links in Dorset to discuss development of a specialist IT ordering and stock management system, which is likely to be useful to food co-ops, which sometimes lack the necessary business skills to manage money and track food orders.
Food Co-ops newsletter
The second issue of the Food Co-ops newsletter went out to over 100 contacts, and Maresa has distributed about 200 free seasonal food calendars to 17 different food projects across England. She has also started to design generic marketing materials such as banners and leaflets that can be used by co-ops and other food projects across England.
Sustain project officer Maresa Bossano has provided advice and written guidance to four potential new food co-ops in Burnley, Rochdale, Tottenham and Herne Hill, and has met with the Fresh Ideas network co-ordinator to discuss joint work in the Southeast. Maresa has also produced the first issue of the newsletter on the Food Co-ops & Buying Groups project and emailed it to over 100 contacts across the UK. Completed questionnaires continue to be returned from food co-ops. Maresa has also put together a template for a food co-ops toolkit and started to write content, for example on funding and marketing.
London Food Link’s work on the Food Co-ops and Buying Groups strand – co-ordinated by Suzanne Natelson - has made steady progress with further research on education, needs assessment and volunteer support mechanisms in food co-ops and buying groups in London. Suzanne and Maresa have visited several food co-ops around London including Shajalal Community Centre Co-op, Chelsea Theatre Co-op, North Paddington, Peckham, St Hilda’s Co-op, and spoken to several Primary Care Trusts and community groups involved in running co-ops. The information gathered will provide case studies for the forthcoming toolkit.
This strand of work is coordinated by Maresa Bossano, who previously worked on the Good Food on the Public Plate project for Sustain. During the first few weeks of activity for this strand, Maresa has been developing a number of different areas of work, summarised as follows. She has:
- Contacted and supported delivery partners for the initial stages of their work.
- Put together an action plan.
- Set up a database of existing food co-ops with over 200 contacts.
- Written and circulated a detailed food co-ops questionnaire to projects across the UK and started to receive and collate responses.
- Collated details of various materials useful to food co-ops, including case studies, toolkits and evaluation reports.
- Set up on on-line e-mail group to share materials with other project partners.
- Visited food co-ops and project partners in London, Somerset and the North East.
- Convened a food co-ops teleconference for project delivery partners.
- Organised an exchange visit to Somerset Community Food’s annual conference.
Education, volunteers and needs assessments
For the food co-ops strand, London Food Link project officer Suzanne Natelson has led development of collaboration and project planning for several aspects of the work programme – on education, volunteer support mechanisms and community needs assessment research. This has been undertaken through phone conferences, meetings and email contact.
Other activities have included:
- A meeting with the wholesale food distributor Booker about their plans for a local distribution initiative
- Participating in an interview with the Farmers Guardian for an in-depth article about the Making Local Food Work programme.
- An urban food growing site visit to Growing Communities in Hackney and Organic Lea in Walthamstow (which also involved Lori Stahlbrand, from LocalFoodPlus in Toronto).
- Recruitment of two volunteers to help on the Making Local Food Work project.