How Food Co-ops Thrive in California

The California Berkeley People's Office explains how their co-op food buying process saves money for co-op members.

| July/August 1970

Co-op food buying ... and here's how they do it in California, as reported by the Berkeley People's Office. See, there's nothing to it!

The food-buying co-ops take cooperation among members to make them work but savings are really something (20% to 50%). They function this way:

Buying Fresh Food for the Co-op

Neighborhood groups of five to eight living units get together and send representatives to a Thursday night central meeting. Every adult pays a non-refundable, one-time kitty fee of 2 dollars or more as a cushion for fronting the money to buy things. At the meeting, orders are taken from the representatives of each group for fruit and vegetables.

At 6:00 AM Saturday morning, three or four people go down to the Farmer's Market in San Francisco and buy organically grown fruits and vegetables in boxes or crates and save lots of money.

Between 10:30 and 12:30 everyone comes and gets his stuff at a central location. The price per lb. is a bit marked up to cover waste — there's always left-over stuff since you have to over-buy a little (crates come in standard amounts). Markups might be 1 cent per pound for items under 10 cents per pound, 2 cents under 20 cents per pound, 3 cents under 30 cents per pound, etc.

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