What is a Food Co-op?

 A Cooperative (Co-op) store is a full-service grocery store owned by its Members/ Equity Shareholders (Owners). Here’s a short video that gives a great overview about food co-ops and how they impact the local communities in which they serve. 


Another unique concept to Cooperatives is that they follow Seven Basic Principles which were adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. They are {adapted from the NCBA website}:

  • Voluntary and open membership 

    Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

  • Democratic member control 

    Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.

  • Member economic participation

    Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.

  • Autonomy and independence

    Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.

  • Education, training and information

    Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.

  • Cooperation among cooperatives

    Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

  • Concern for community

    While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members. In addition, Co-ops often exhibit a higher degree of social responsibility than conventional stores.                  

Cooperatives are led, operated and funded by and for the community!


Did you know that Cooperatives trace the roots of their existence and these principles to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844? Watch the video below to  hear their story.


(source:YouTube -The New Pioneers animation was commissioned for the Rochdale Pioneers Museum                                                                    and Co-operative Heritage Trust )

To learn more about the history of the cooperative movement, check out these sites:

NCGA Stronger Together Co-op History page

Wikipedia page- History of the Cooperative Movement