Food co-ops are good for their communities, according to the most recent Food Co-op Impact report issued by National Co+op Grocers.
NCG has the data to prove it.
An umbrella organization that provides business services for its 147 member retail co-ops, NCG analyzed data from SPINS and its proprietary sustainability software to determine how food co-ops support local farms, make healthy food affordable, back community nonprofits and work to improve the environment.
National Co+op Grocers also works in Washington, D.C., informing agencies and Congress on issues such as organic agriculture, the climate crisis and racial justice. NCG partners with advocacy groups like National Organic Coalition, Organic Trade Association, National Cooperative Business Association and National Farm to School Network on common goals in these areas, according to Eric Davis, a spokesman for NCG.
The information in the report reflects only the co-ops that belong to NCG, which is about 80% of all co-ops across the country, Davis wrote in an email. NCG-associated co-ops have approximately 1.3 members and are located in 38 states. Here are some highlights of the report.
Keeping it local
Co-ops establish strong relationships with local farmers, which allowed many co-ops to keep plenty of meat, produce, eggs and milk available for consumers in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Co-ops also provided a market for products that farmers would have sold to restaurants after they were closed.
Providing healthy, affordable food
Many co-ops offer needs-based discounts or low-price memberships so low-income residents can access the healthy, organic food available at co-ops. Through NCG, co-ops lobby the federal government to provide more funds for food programs.
NCG uses the purchasing power of its combined members to negotiate distribution contracts, create lines of private label products and establish promotions with national brands—all of which help reduce the cost of food for local co-op members.
Supporting the community
Co-ops host events and provide space for local nonprofits to raise awareness of their causes, but they also support those organizations through register round-up programs, reusable bag credits, food drives and more.
NCG is starting a supplier diversity program to make more BIPOC-owned products available in local co-ops. In addition, it's lobbying for programs that will support migrant and seasonal farm workers during the pandemic, reform the USDA's practices to create opportunity for Black farmers, and reserve funding for minority-owned financial institutions.
Saving the planet
Co-ops are working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by installing solar panels, energy-efficient lighting and the latest refrigeration technology. They also advocate for organic agriculture to be included in federal climate change policy.
NCG funded research to inform Congress about the potential of organic agriculture in mitigating climate change.