What Is a Food Co-op?

By: Co+op


A food co-op is a grocery store owned by folks in their community (and by you, if you choose).

Unlike corporate chains, food co-ops are totally independent and owned by the community members who shop there. So instead of focusing on investors, food co-ops focus on their community — nourishing everyone according to their budget and cooking style.

Co-op grocery stores are the place to find the best local food, because they know their local farmers and family business owners by name. And food co-ops are passionate about giving back to their communities. They believe that good food is just the beginning of what people can achieve by working together.

Here’s how it works:

Everyone is welcome to shop, eat and hang out at a food co-op. And everyone is welcome to join by becoming an owner. Co-op owners then get back financial rewards, as well as a vote to choose the board of directors and impact the co-op’s future direction.

While each food co-op is unique, they’re all working together toward the day when everyone has the delicious, healthy food they deserve!

Why co-ops matter

Cooperation is working together toward the same end and joining forces to accomplish a task that can't be achieved alone. Simply put, co-ops provide the framework that allows people to get what they want in a way that better meets their economic, social and cultural needs.

Cooperation builds strong bonds between the people who supply products and the people who use them. By their nature, co-ops offer a way to transform the way business is done — providing a means to get the products and services their customers need while strengthening the community and the world around them. Many co-ops set a standard for the surrounding business community through environmental and social responsibility.

In addition to a co-op's commitment to serving its owners, most adhere to a set of co-op principles that helps guide the business.

Benefits of joining a co-op

You don’t have to be a member to shop at a co-op — everyone is welcome — but ownership does have its perks. Owners typically receive financial rewards like discounts and coupons, and they can even earn a share of their co-op’s profits through patronage dividends. Owners get to elect their co-op’s board of directors and have an equal voice in ballot initiatives. This democratic approach to business is at the heart of the cooperative philosophy.

The benefits of ownership also extend to the entire community. Co-ops keep more money in their local economy, increase the market and access for locally produced food, and prioritize business practices that are good for people and the planet.

No other grocery store is so deeply rooted right in their community.

So, if you like the idea of a neighborhood gathering place for fresh, healthy and delicious food — one that’s committed and connected to the local community — the co-op’s doors are wide open to everyone, and there’s always a seat for you at the co-op table!

Find a co-op near you.