Three community groups in the city will work with residents to form ‘food buying cooperatives’, an initiative where groups of residents pool their resources to access better quality food at more affordable prices.
Each co-operative of around 20 households will decide what to buy and for how much.
Each member will contribute a small weekly amount that, pooled together, enables the group to buy food (and other household products) in bulk. In addition, the co-ops will have access to surplus food circulated by large organisations such as FareShare or donations from local businesses.
None of this would have been available to each individual member, but, working together, they can access those resources and reduce costs.
The food will then be shared equally amongst members, who are also responsible for all aspects of organising the co-op.
Councillor Nweeda Khan, cabinet member for Communities and Social Justice at Preston City Council, said: “The pandemic continues to impact families throughout the city with many stretched budgets becoming even tighter.
“Initiatives like this give residents the power to work together as a community and support one another. By forming food buying cooperatives, residents will be empowered to make their collective resources go further by accessing better food at a better price.
"Ideas like this can also be the catalyst for families to work together to share recipes and advice as well as other skills.”
The three community organisations, Preston Windrush Generation Descendants Group, Fishwick Rangers and Preston United Youth Development Programme will be supported by the Preston Cooperative Development Network (PCDN), cooperative development agency Stir to Action and a team from Cooperation Town, a new network of community-led food buying cooperatives. The project is funded by the Co-operative Group via Co-operatives UK.
As the pilot project develops, the community organisations and the PCDN will share their learning with Preston’s Community Food Hub Network which has played a crucial role in supporting communities across Preston during the pandemic. Project partners will also reach out to other cooperative food initiatives in Preston.
Aftetr the set-up stages, the groups will be entirely self organised by their members. When more members want to join, the group will split into two and a few of the original members (who already have practical organising experience) will help set up the new co-op.
Zul Hussain, from community group Fishwick Rangers, said: “We’re really pleased to be involved in this new project to address food poverty in our community.
“We want to support people so they have more control over how they get hold of the food they need and how much they pay for it. We think that a cooperative approach has real potential.”
The work comes following the launch of Preston City Council’s Community Wealth Building Strategy which focuses on recovery from Covid-19 and developing community resilience.
To join any of the initial three co-ops, people are asked to contact one of the participating groups.