Community Food Co-Op for cheaper groceries!

Have you noticed the Church being renovated near the Town Hall? Once a month it hosts a Food Co-Op. Shopping at this Co-Op is like going out for coffee on a Saturday morning. You arrive and put your name on the list, then have a free cuppa (organic fair trade of course) and maybe a little something sweet to eat before the friendly vollies fill your containers with goodness.

The Co-op is a great example of the power of seeding. The Co-Op was started in 2000 by a group from the Uniting Church as a constructive initiative to foster responsible use of the earth’s resources. One of the original committee had seen a food Co-Op run at Warrnambool Uniting Church run for quite a while. The original committee of six fantastic women started to research the idea. The Uniting Church’s Earth Team gave a grant of $500, and while they waited for the grant to come through a member of the congregation lent the $500 to allow them to begin.

The Co-op’s main aims are to reduce packaging and, where possible, purchase organic and Australian grown foods and to care for the earth as a co-operative community whilst keeping prices available to all.

Since its humble beginnings the membership has grown to over sixty and includes lots of people from the wider community.

There is a wide range of foods including: flours, sugars, rice, cereals, legumes, nuts, pasta, tea, coffee and a range of environmentally friendly household and personal cleaning products. Try the chocolate coated coffee beans!

It’s not just about buying products though, it’s about building community, spending time with people and sharing in the running of the Co-op.  All members participate on the roster twice a year.  It’s all loads of fun and you can become a member by simply turning up, paying your membership fee ($1 each month you attend) and bringing empty containers and bottles.

Pick up days are the third Saturday of each month, at the Brunswick Uniting Church, Sydney Road, from 10.00am until 12.30. (BUT the trick is that in December it’s the second Saturday!)

So bring some containers & bottles & pop in some time between 10 & 12. And if you’re short on containers don’t worry – there’s always a box of spares.

So how big can it grow? The sense of community is an important part of the Co-Op so there’s probably an upper limit, but they haven’t reached it yet. However they have helped to found new Co-Ops: As original members have moved away, they have helped to start them in new places. Foundation member Glenice Cook says that they have worked with a group in Red Hill to start a small Co-Op, and are currently helping one in Benalla. There’s also a possibility of working with a group in Flowerdale.

How to start a co-op
There are lots of different models out there, from a co-op like this one, to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Here are some links to useful resources to get you started:

An introduction to Food Co-ops:
http://www.greenlivingtips.com/articles/135/1/Natural-food-cooperatives.html

There will be a workshop at the 2011 Sustainable Living Foundation
“How to start you own food co-op”:
Sun 21st February 4.00 pm – 4.50 pm, Feast Tent
http://festival.slf.org.au/program/talk/start-your-own-organic-food-co-op

Manuals online:
http://www.cgin.coop/public/food-coop-info/start-a-food-coop

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