The aim of the project

Food Buying Groups is a food cooperative project run by the communities and aimed at providing a sustainable and affordable model of food purchasing, as opposed to a reliance on food banks and mutual aid, which depends on funding and donations.

Food co-op members save at least a third on their weekly food shop, over £1000 a year, by bulk buying their food together in buk and gaining access to surplus food, often fresh food, that would otherwise have been thrown away.

The model is very simple:

  • Get your neighbours, friends and  families together – a maximum of 20 households per coop
  • Decide as a group as to how much you want to chip in each week and what you would like to buy.

Alongside running the project people involved are able to build organising skills and create various roles, for example, a treasurer, administrator or childcare role (to make sure that people with kids can participate in the meetings). 

“There is a whole list of roles that each coop will decide is right for them”, Shaunna Rushton, a Co-organiser from Cooperation Town said, and can be found in the Cooperation Town manual or ‘invitation’ as they call it.

Food coops can also exchange tips and ideas amongst themselves and join forces to get better deals and support each other. 

“For me this project is about addressing food poverty in a very proactive, enabling way, but it is also about community development and community building…this is about creating networks that can do more as they grow in strength and experience”, said Rachel Stringfellow Policy and Research Officer from Preston City Council. 

Who is involved

So far there are three community groups involved in the project: Preston Windrush Generation of Descendants UK, Fishwick Rangers and Preston United Youth. 

Why are they doing it

There was a big interest among the different community organisations in using new creative ways of addressing food poverty mainly to move beyond handing out food and focusing more on self-reliance and self-sufficiency.  

“The model of cooperatives and what we are trying to achieve fitted in really well with the objects of our charity. We already invest heavily in local communities and in particular – empowering and upskilling local residents to create self-sustainable solutions and social action programmes”, said Zul Hussain, a Programme Manager from Fishwick Rangers.

“Food coops can be a long-term model because there is no one in charge, everyone is an organiser and it is led by the community”, Shaunna added.

Communities see that there are other benefits as well. For example, the foods procured this way are much healthier than the ones you receive in food banks. They are fresh and have a longer shelf life. 

“People have the ownership of being able to identify what type of foods they want, food quality is higher, it’s a lot more culturally appropriate food in terms of what communities want and generally people are very happy to help and want to be involved in things like that”, Zul added.

How is PCDN helping

PCDN was able to secure £3,500 for the project from the Coop’s Lancashire Covid 19 Community Support Fund, as well as provide help in searching for local food suppliers in Preston and Lancashire area and facilitate the discussion between the different community groups. 

Funding for the project has also come from the Coop Food Group via Cooperatives UK.