A food cooperative or food co-op is a food distribution outlet organized as a cooperative. Food cooperatives are usually consumers' cooperatives where the decisions regarding the production and distribution of its food is chosen by its members. Food cooperatives follow the 7 Cooperative Principles and typically offer natural foods. Since decisions about how to run a cooperative are not made by outside shareholders, cooperatives often exhibit a higher degree of social responsibility than their corporate analogues.
The cooperative movement started in the 19th century and the first notable food cooperative was started in Rochdale, England by industrial weavers known as the Rochdale Pioneers. The origination of the modern cooperative movement began in the 1970s when many "second wave" cooperatives started. The goals of these cooperatives was to provide an alternative, organic and anticorporate alternative to chain grocery stores. Food cooperatives began to emerge in major cities and college towns, catering to the food-conscious. Co-op members made the decision of what foods to buy and how to purchase and distribute it.
Between 1969 and 1979, close to 10,000 food co-ops were established.
- Anne Meis Knupfer, Food Co-ops in America: Communities, Consumption, and Economic Democracy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013.
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