Truth is that most of the vegans that I have met so far are solitary, meaning that they represent an exception in their families,
workplaces, schools, neighborhoods and communities. More often than not, they organize their food stash by themselves which usually implies spending additional time and effort to collect their vegan ingredients (including some hard-to-find foodstuff) – not least it entails a large part of their budget.
The next obvious thing vegans could do to empower themselves is to form food cooperatives which distribute solely plant-based foods
at fair prices for consumers and producers. This is exactly what happened in Vienna, where a few engaged individuals just started an all-vegan food co-op.
Vegan food co-op in Vienna
Since a few months a food co-op in Vienna is under construction with some orders already in place. The group is run by its plenary sessions and consensus decision-making while it has ideas of facilitating further activities like food processing (e.g. preservation). Moreover, the food co-op is preparing to link-up with a local farm which is going to turn to a CSA scheme.
As the group is currently looking for a place to establish itself, new members could help to make the food co-op more effective. Especially in these early stages new members will help shape the very organization of the co-op.
Benefits of food co-ops
There are so many benefits, yet so few of us are participating in food co-ops. First of all, as with other types of cooperatives, they cultivate collaboration among members, altruism and a sense of belonging to a community. Meeting other locals, colleagues, neighbors has been an immensely empowering experience to many individuals.
Additionally, food co-ops support local farmers and the local economy. Most food co-ops are dedicated to fairly-traded, local, organic foods. Fairly-traded means also that the consumer will buy, otherwise expensive foodstuff labelled as healthy/organic etc., at lower cost. In other words, the benefit is shared between producers and consumers eliminating all the middlemen – the processing, logistics and retailing corporations.
Lastly, food co-ops provide a meeting point for their members to exchange ideas. For instance, some vegan food co-ops are running campaigns on food issues, education programmes, shared dinners etc.
Beyond the “supermarket vegan”
With vegetarianism and veganism becoming more hype in the last years big retailers have entered the healthy, plant-based niche market. Well, we may argue that it comprises a positive step but still a supermarket is concerned primarily with profit maximization as well as it contributes to the concentration of capital and power to few individuals.
Retail conglomerates which are based on globally-sourced goods are exerting this power to define the farm gate prices (known as “price-squeeze” at farm level) or influence policies to their favor. Usually they operate with underpaid labour force while from an environmental point of view they produce tons of food waste.
A vegan food co-op can encourage individuals to go beyond “supermarket veganism” and work out a vegan lifestyle with their communities and locally-traced foodstuff. It is in our interest in Freegan Kolektiva to showcase pathways for more socially-embedded forms of veganism – exploitation is not confined to domesticated animals.
What to do?
If you happen to live in Vienna, you can just join the Vegan FoodCoop Vienna – you can just show up in one of their next meetings. You can find here the group’s website, facebook page and email: email@example.com.
There are some other vegan food co-ops around the world:
Chicago Vegan Co-op is under an upgrading period – here is the link
Vegan Future is an active vegan co-op and organization based in Southampton, UK – here is the link
Rawfully Organic is a vegan co-op in Houston, Texas with an emphasis on raw foods, health and farmers’ support. Here is the link.
If there is no vegan food co-op where you live, consider getting together to create a new one.
Below is a video created by members of CLO (Cooperative Living Organization), which won the first prize of the 2012 video contest organized by Coop in the US. CLO has been active for 78 years, making it possible for disadvantaged students to access university education while being independent, socially-responsible and self-governed.
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