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What makes this food co-op a co-operative?’ - ‘We just are’: Findings from a three-year evaluation of food co-ops in England, 2009-2012 Julie Smith Georgia.

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Presentation on theme: "What makes this food co-op a co-operative?’ - ‘We just are’: Findings from a three-year evaluation of food co-ops in England, 2009-2012 Julie Smith Georgia."— Presentation transcript:

1 What makes this food co-op a co-operative?’ - ‘We just are’: Findings from a three-year evaluation of food co-ops in England, Julie Smith Georgia Machell Martin Caraher Centre for Food Policy, City University, London

2 Overview of presentation Project background Policy context Methodology Findings Case studies Emerging issues

3 Project background Phase 1 – January 2010 – June 2010 Phase 2 – February June 2012 Evaluation for Making Local Food Work food co-op programme

4 Policy context

5 Methodology Phase 1: Visit 3 co-ops in 3 areas – London, Somerset and the North East Phase 2: Visit 2 co-ops in each of the 9 English regions Look at a range of co-ops Develop case studies on co-ops and look specifically at the perceived impact Use of a range of methods: observation, interviews, reports, website data, graffiti walls and surveys.

6 Key Findings 80% (n=18) of food ‘co-ops’ visited not food co- ops in traditional sense Spectrum of food co-op types 83% (n=18) of food co-ops that were evaluated were reliant on volunteers and funding long-standing food co-ops (that operated formal co-operative structures) had taken steps to become financially secure, they developed business plans and used a mixture of paid workers and volunteers.

7 Types of food co-ops (n=18)

8 Organisational Structures (n=18)

9 Community led

10 Health initiative Health impacts "Introducing people to foods they might not have tried before" "People are becoming used to cooking with (f+v) and therefore more inclined to buy more in future." "Encourages people to buy fruit and veg who wouldn't normally do so" "Walk more often to collect fruit/veg than I would do if only shopping online with supermarkets" "Opportunities to discuss wider issues with contacts 'grapevine'"

11 Bringing it all to life – community led Case study 1 Region: Yorkshire and Humberside Type of Co-op: Stall Outlet: Church Focus: Working with young people in the community Organiser: Church youth club

12 Bringing it all to life – health initiative Region: London Type of Co-op: Weekly fruit and vegetable stall Outlet: at a community centre (part of wider NHS project) Date established: 2005 Focus: Promoting 5-A- Day Organiser: NHS

13 Co-ops and food ‘like once they (the wholesaler) put in courgettes and aubergines – people don’t want it. They just want their staples - which are potatoes, onions, carrots, cauliflowers – where the prices are lower’. ‘yes, we go for local if we can but here we are deprived, and so price matters.’

14 Why are we a co-op? “We don’t have a legal status as a co- operative but we rely on people and that, I have to say, is the key stress point for us” “We co-operate with our supplier” “We just are”

15 Emerging issues Co-ops of co- ops? Food co-ops as a mechanism for delivering community needs Tensions between sustainability focused and health focused co-ops Is it okay to use a generic term for a range of projects? Capitalist co-ops

16 Full evaluation report available from:


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