St Luke’s held its first meeting of the Cooperation St Luke’s food co-op on Thursday 23rd June. Over 20 people attended the session, and Shiri Shalmy, from Cooperation Town who runs a food co-op in Camden, gave a talk about how the food co-op membership would work.

A food co-op is a neighbourhood buying group, where members get quality groceries at affordable prices. Each group decide on how much to contribute each week, which is usually around £5 per family for their basic weekly food costs. Shiri explained specific family requirements like favourite foods and pet food would be bought outside of the food co-op.

The food consists of free surplus food from supermarkets which is delivered into St Luke’s Wellbeing Hub from the Felix Project and City Harvest. Additional household products are bought from a wholesaler, such as Booker, which is a wholesale retailer. The additional products are paid for from the food fund which each member has contributed to.

It works on a principle that the co-op should have a sufficient amount of members so that buying in bulk makes it cheaper to purchase. There are usually around 15-20 to a group, although 20 is the maximum you can have in a co-op. If you reach the maximum of 20 in your group, it can be split up to form two new groups. To expand the new group you can ask neighbours and friends to make up numbers.

Each member of the co-op has a say in how it is run and everyone has a role in running the scheme. It will depend on how you want to run your co-op there are several roles each person can elect to do. These include, membership co-ordinators, treasurers, researchers/bargain hunters, drivers to pick up supplies from the shops, packers, administrators, and people to schedule the rota and distributors to members who can’t pick up.

The members will say what they want for that week, the majority vote will prevail. It could be that one week everyone decides they want pasta, rice, vegetables, toilet paper, etc. The next week they decide they want fruit, household products. Usually the group uses a WhatsApp group, which is only used to communicate what food they want for the week. If you are a single household then you can join other single households or a couple to form your own unit of the membership.

It is a co-operative and members can run it how best it works for the group. The bulk of the food and household products will be split equally among each member, however you are able to swap and any surplus can be put into a communal pile to share out.

The first successful co-op was formed in 1844 in Rochdale, Lancashire. At that time, living conditions in northern industrial towns were tough. Cooperation Town is a network of independent food co-ops. It was set up in 2019 to develop a new co-op model and support a new generation of food co-ops across the UK.

We have been hit hard by years of austerity and, most recently, Covid-19. With increase energy bills and food costs, this ongoing crisis left many of us poorer, and struggling to pay for good quality food. Co-ops are based on the simple idea that organising together makes us stronger and more resilient — and saves us money!

At the end of the event on Thursday, 16 people raised their hands and voted to join the St Luke’s food co-op with people after coming forward to join. This will be the start of great venture to help alleviate raising food costs.

For further information about the St Luke’s food co-op contact:

Tsedal Menghistu
Health and Wellbeing Officer
Email: [email protected]