By its very name, a cooperative (or co op) is a virtuous enterprise. Owned by the workers, growers, producers, or consumers a food co op is the coming together of community food projects. They are created to service the local community by providing affordable, fresh fruit and vegetables to people who don't have access to sustainable food shops close to their homes. Co ops come in all shapes and sizes - from a fruit and veg stalls set up outside schools or churches to box schemes and mini marts.
There's a great need to improve the sustainability of cooperatives across the UK as the convenience of big supermarkets that fly in cheap produce from across the world often wins out. The London Food Link, with the help of the lottery fund is striving to help co ops be more economically viable to set up and run. They're doing this by developing training packages as well as organising conferences and exchange visits for the mostly volunteer run co ops. These volunteer angels make it easier for those who want to buy local and as direct for the producer or farmer as possible.
The London Food Link is coordinated by Sustain (the alliance campaigning for better food and farming policies in the UK). For more information visit www.sustainweb.org