7 Reasons to Shop Your Local Food Co-op

Want to make a huge difference in the local community, while embodying your activist values and doing something about our messed-up food system? It’s time to start shopping at your local food co-op. Why? Well, I’ve got seven very good reasons.

Food co-ops, also known as grocery store cooperatives or just “the co-op,” have their modern origins in the 1700s, when the spread of industrialization drove people into cities, and those people needed food and supplies. They found that banding together to negotiate as a group could net them savings, and the modern co-op took form. Co-ops flourished in the 1960s and 1970s, but some are even older — and more are opening all the time!

Need help finding one near you? Here’s a directory.

1. You’ll Support a Locally-Owned Business

Some food co-ops are worker-owned, which means that every single employee has a share in the business, and they share in the earnings. Others may have a board of directors, or be structured more like a conventional store with an owner, management and employees. No matter how they’re set up, co-ops are independent, local businesses. Shopping locally keeps your money in the economy through what’s known as the multiplier effect: Drop $10 on groceries, and that pays out three to four-fold. Pretty cool!

2. You’ll Support Your Local Foodshed

While different co-ops have different business models, many work on sourcing as much of their food as possible — and sometimes nearly all of it! — from local farmers. That’s another way they give back to the economy, but it’s also good for the planet. Fewer miles of travel, and only eating produce in season, equates to a much smaller environmental footprint. Plus, you have an opportunity to see where your food grows firsthand, which helps if you have ethical concerns about animal welfare, working conditions for farmworkers or agricultural practices.

3. You’ll Support Local Causes

Food co-ops, as active members of the community, take their responsibility seriously. Many contribute to local events and causes when they can with donations of cash, food or event space. Stores rooted in the community like to give back, and the more you spend, the more you enable their good work.

4. You Could Save Money

Some co-operatives are structured on a membership model: You can buy in to the co-op, and in exchange you get cool benefits, like discounts. Some co-ops may require shoppers to be members. Memberships help keep other costs low, and they can pass that savings on to you as a customer. So even if it seems like a co-op should be more expensive, with its local, organic and ethical food, it can actually work out to be less costly for you on some food items.

5. You Could Learn Something

Some co-ops don’t just sell food; they also work with local groups to offer classes. While cooking, preserving and related activities might be common offerings, they’re not the only ones. A co-op can become a social hub, providing an opportunity to take classes about all sorts of topics while collaborating with other people in your community. Maybe you’d like to attend a knitting circle/activist group: If there isn’t one at your co-op already, they’d probably be open to having you start one!

6. You’ll Have Volunteering Opportunities

Depending on the structure of your co-op, there may be opportunities to volunteer. And some may offer work-trade for people who want to become members but have trouble with the cost. If you want a structured way to give back to your community and meet people, this is a great way to do it.

7. You’ll Help Others Access Fresh Food

Early adopters at co-ops sometimes have to bear higher costs while they get established, finalize their business model and negotiate with vendors. But after this initial stage, a co-op can start to grow and offer low prices for everyone in the community –  along with discount programs for low-income people. People who are struggling to afford fresh food, or who have trouble getting to a more remote grocery store, can really benefit from a co-op in the neighborhood –  even if they can’t be in the first wave of members. You can use your economic privilege to help someone out!

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture


Danii P
Danii P4 days ago

thanks for sharing

Just H
Just H6 days ago

Frequent the farmers markets as well. Cash right into the hands of people who grew it.

Amanda McConnell

thanks for sharing

Amanda McConnell

thanks for sharing

Leo C
Leo Custer10 days ago

Thank you for posting!

DAVID fleming11 days ago


John B
John B11 days ago

Thanks Ms. Smith for sharing these get reasons.

John W
John W11 days ago


David C
David C12 days ago

love my co-op, and we get money back every year in addition to low prices and "owner" discounts, etc

Janet B
Janet B13 days ago