With the abundance of Community Supported Agriculture, farmers’ markets, conventional grocers, and natural food stores in our growing city, why does Nashville need a food co-op? First of all, what is a food co-op?
What is a Food Co-op?
A food co-op is a grocery store owned by its local community members. Here’s how it works. Members purchase a share which allows them to decide what foods and products stock the shelves, where those items are purchased, and what quality standards both products and vendors are required to meet.
Although it’s a community owned grocery store concept, ANYONE is invited to shop healthy, locally sourced goods year-round without purchasing a share. When the Nashville Food Co-op opens, we will continue to serve the entire community, however members will enjoy the discounts, dividends, and any other incentives that are democratically agreed upon.
Co-ops have been around for hundreds of years and are represented in all economic sectors. Co-ops exist in small scale organizations, as well as multi-million-dollar industries. Food, finance, healthcare, and fishery are just a few examples. Ocean Spray is a well-known brand that was formed around 1930 when cranberry growers from Wisconsin, Washington, and Oregon banded together as the Ocean Spray Cooperative. The co-op now includes over 700 farmer families.
Food cooperatives provide far more advantages beyond sourcing local, fresh, and healthy foods. (Although that’s a perfectly good reason to shop co-ops!) Since co-ops aren’t governed by external investors, profits are returned to its members in the form of discounts, trainings, events, and increased employee wages. This democratic approach to business results in a sustainable economic system that benefits the co-op, its members, and the communities it serves.
5 Reasons Why Nashville Needs a Food Co-op
1. Greater Local Impact
Food co-ops provide more opportunity and work for local farmers and their employees, as well as other local artisans and food purveyors. By contrast, local food and products account for less than 2% of national grocery store sales.
In addition to supporting local agriculture and entrepreneurs, co-ops donate to charitable causes at a rate 44% higher on average than conventional retailers, per a National Co+op Grocers study.
The Nashville Food Co-op’s goals include offering educational programs on food systems, as well as classes that highlight local eating.
2. Higher Employee Wages
Co-ops take pride in investing in their employees, often offering wages and benefits well above other retail grocery chains. Fairly compensated and engaged employees aren’t just happier, but are committed to providing a better consumer experience.
We also care about our growers, from those planting and harvesting the fields, to workers cleaning and processing the food, to the drivers delivering it to the store.
3. Year-round Local Food
Only a few farmers’ markets remain open annually around Nashville, and often with very limited hours. A food co-op would provide Nashvillians more seasonal, locally sourced foods year-round at fair prices.
Most farmers can’t afford the costs of supplying major grocery chains, leaving only certain windows of time throughout the year to sell their products via farmers markets and farm stands. A food co-op in Nashville would provide local growers and purveyors a sustainable source of income all year.
4. Less Environmental Impact
Shopping at co-ops and keeping food local is a vote for healthier farming techniques, better animal welfare, and less carbon emissions. Locally grown and sold food requires less energy for shipping and storage over its life-cycle.
It’s also a vote for better recycling and composting practices, reduced plastic waste, higher quality organic foods, and an overall healthier community — all areas the city of Nashville is focused on improving.
Co-ops offer far more bulk food and fair-trade options than other conventional grocers, and support worldwide environmental protection initiatives.
Thanks to the National Co+op Grocers organization, more than 1.4 million trees have been planted in Peru to offset greenhouse gas emissions and provide an incredible, sustainable economic opportunity.
5. Community Ownership
Lastly, becoming a Nashville Food Co-op member means you have a voice in ALL of the benefits mentioned above. Members become part of a larger like-minded community that’s invested in supporting sustainable agriculture, fair treatment of employees, and giving back.
Members will not only enjoy future store discounts and profit dividends, but also community incentives with our partner organizations in the Nashville area.
What better way to support the local community than by becoming a Nashville Food Co-op member and moving us one step closer to opening our first food co-op?
Are you interested in joining the Nashville Food Co-op? Learn about our membership options!