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local people can live better: ‘Food Co-ops’ stores

 Prevailing stores that sell food and

beverages are usually run as a chain across the country. Unlike these stores, food cooperatives in the United States are owned by local buyers.

When local citizens pay a fee to join in-stores, they get shopping privileges as well as the right to vote for board directors or run for board seats themselves.

National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International”   [NCBACLUSA] is a national association of mutual aid. “Because members elect board members on a one-person-one-vote basis, it [the association] is entirely democratic,” said NCBA CLUSA spokeswoman Elizabeth Lechleitner.

These boards set product standards. For example, they might explain legal ways to provide healthier options than prepackaged foods or sugary drinks.

The Tacoma Park Silver Spring Co-op, located in suburban Maryland near Washington, has a $100 joining fee that buyers can pay in installments. This store is famous for its organically grown vegetables. It is also famous for selling unique items such as Mexican rice drink, horchata and Middle Eastern sesame halwa.

Economic benefits

In the United States, food co-op stores affiliated with National Co-op Grocers, members of the national cooperative business association CLUSA International, serve 1.3 million member-owners. “National Co-op Grocers” has 218 stores across the country. Combined, these stores report annual sales of $2.4 billion.

But instead of raking in the profits, many co-ops lower prices themselves or invest in their communities as a result of their strong financial position.

Chloe Thompson, Community Engagement Manager at Maryland Co-op, explains that their members receive a 10% discount that is given in the form of monthly rebates. According to National Co-op Grocers, 40% of US food co-ops offer need-based discounts. (The federal government helps low-income Americans buy groceries. Some co-ops offer rebates equal to double the amount purchased with the assistance.)

 Social value

Still, “in my opinion, the benefits of [co-op] membership outweigh the financial discount,” says Thompson.

According to Kate Latour, director of government relations for NCBACLUSA, co-ops are expanding into rural America and underserved areas of cities that lack mainstream and affordable grocery stores. These are places where residents are most likely to suffer from a lack of fresh food. He adds that in addition to providing healthy food, some co-ops also organize nutrition and health classes in 

their communities to promote wellness.

Some other co-ops sponsor their area baseball teams or voter registration drives. There are also some who contribute financially to projects designed for the good of the community.

Co-ops even work for international humanitarian causes on a philanthropic basis . In the immediate aftermath of Russia’s February 24th invasion of Ukraine, National Co-op Grocers teamed up with the National Cooperative Development Foundation and NCBACLUSA to raise funds for the Ukrainian cooperative community. What did

The real value of membership is because you love the store and … you’re willing to invest in its benefits and become an owner and partner,” said Ce Puig, chief executive of National Co-op Grocers. are [That’s what keeps this store here. Without [local owner-members], this store cannot survive


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