There are over 300 local Food Co-ops in Wales supported by the Rural Regeneration Unit (RRU).
A food co-op is a non-profit operation that gives people access to affordable, fresh fruit and vegetables on a weekly basis, at a local community venue. Volunteers meet each week to bag up food that has been sourced from a local supplier. Bags are ordered a week in advance, with cash up front to pay the supplier on delivery. The supplier sends potatoes, carrots and three or four other best-value seasonal items. Deliveries are shared equally and the cost of each bag is £2.50 (organic £4.50).
The RRU is a social enterprise scheme funded by the Welsh Assembly government. The funding is to enhance diet in communities, via a supply of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables, and (through Rural Affairs funding) to promote local produce.
There are around twenty food co-ops in Cardiff and five in Penarth supported by the RRU. A new food co-op in Tennyson Road in Penarth already has volunteers packing around 40 bags weekly.
The first step in starting a food co-op, via the RRU route, is to talk with a regional representative. They will approach local businesses, to see if they have any objections, and then talk to potential local suppliers.
Today, I joined Geraint Roberts, who is initiating the process for setting up an organic food co-op in Dinas Powys, in a meeting with Hannah James, the RRU's Food Development Worker for South Wales. She talked us through the process. We were impressed by the level of help available from RRU in setting up a food co-op. Through Welsh Assembly funding, for example, the RRU supplies the reusable green bags for the food, along with some other equipment and promotional literature.
The initial meeting went well. I will keep you posted on developments and will share our experiences of setting up a local food co-op.
Rural Regeneration Unit:
New food co-op in Penarth: