Committed Volunteer Ali sporting a volunteer apron.

Can our food be affordable and ethical?

A core purpose of our co-operative

It is our mission as a co-operative to provide the most healthy, sustainable and affordable food that we can to our members and wider community. 

Our biggest challenge is to deliver on the affordable aspect of our mission, when sustainably and ethically produced food simply costs more to produce – whether it is paying farmers a fair price for their produce, or meeting the highest environmental standard. 

So what is the secret to making your shop at the Co-op more affordable? 

The simple answer: volunteering at the Co-op

Inspired by the pioneering work of food co-operatives like Park Slope Co-op, Co-op members realised that a significant proportion of the retail price of the food we all buy is the labour cost (everything from stacking a shelf to operating a check-out takes labour) and that a possible way to reduce the retail price for members was to reduce the labour costs associated operating our co-operative. 

As a co-operative, we would never do this by reducing the wages of our staff (we currently pay at least National Living Wage of 12.30 per hour) but instead set up a voluntary ‘Help Rota’ scheme for members to volunteer their time at the Co-op in exchange for a discount on our retail price in proportion to their labour contribution. 

This system has grown significantly over the years with members volunteering anywhere from 2 hours a month up to 4 or more hours per week – with a sliding scale of discounts to recognise the different contributions made. 

While regular membership entitles us to a 5% discount, volunteers discounts start at 15% off all of their shopping. These discounts make the difference for many people between organic, local and ethical produce being affordable or not for them. 

Members who volunteer also encapsulate the co-operative values of collective action, self-help and mutual benefit.

An image of our discounts

If you are interested in getting involved in your community, meeting like-minded people and making your food more affordable – considering joining the Help Rota today by clicking the link below. We will be sharing other ways to access the best value through our Co-op over the coming weeks. 

Your first shift as a volunteer will be your Manual Handling training, which is prerequisite to starting your volunteering in the shop. We hold our manual handling trainings regularly, and after completing yours you gain access to your volunteer discount and can start a regular shift in the help rota.

Interested in volunteering? Complete the volunteering form below, and we’ll be in touch with the date of the next Manual Handling course.

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