In today’s world most of the food distribution is owned and controlled by big corporations. Nevertheless, there is a co-operative movement going on, which stands for more freedom of choice and justice.
Within the last years, people have started to reclaim their identity on the market and ask for more transparency. A growing number of individuals decided to position themselves against a situation, in which their freedom of action is limited and form a more open and honest form of an enterprise: the co-operative was born. This basic idea of uniting people with common needs in form of a collectively owned firm is nothing new. The roots of co-operatives can be dated back to the 19th century. Today numerous forms of co-operatives exists, ranging from only distributing food to members up to running a jointly owned store or restaurant.
For Bue Heckmann, a member of the food co-operative “Københavns Fødevarefællesskab” in Copenhagen, joining a co-op has great advantages:
“The food here is ecological and locally produced. There is no such thing as perfectly shaped fruits and vegetables that all have the same size. I find it interesting and challenging to receive vegetables you do not know and as you get them in season, I constantly develop my cooking skills.”
Every Wednesday the members of the Danish food co-op can come to one of the nine distribution locations spread in Copenhagen to pick up a bag full of vegetables or fruits, depending on what has been ordered one week before by the member.
Of course, becoming a member of a co-op means to be confronted with certain responsibilities such as taking on one monthly shift of four hours during the distribution Wednesdays. Additionally, disorganization within the co-op usually complicates a smooth working process. Still, Bue does not see this as a drawback, quite the contrary:
“The food co-op is a great chance to broaden your own horizon and I think that in our society that’s a point lots of people crave for. So many people want to develop themselves but do not know how. Being part of this co-op is a perfect answer to this.”
The concept of small co-operatives has also arrived in Skåne. The “Ekolivs” store in Malmö is an organic corner store run by 25 members with each of them working in the store twice a month. Antti Lavén has been a member for a while and joined the co-op initially because he did not have any work:
“I actually live on the same street and knew this place. For me it was nice to start doing something useful. It’s fun because you meet a lot of people and you can organize events.”
The little shop is indeed more than just a grocery store. In the past the members have organized concerts and also flea markets were hosted.Asking him which events are planned right now, Antti Lavén laughs:
“Right now we have nothing planned. You know, it always depends on the members, on how much time they have.”
Talking about the future of the shop Antti sees a lot more potential: “One could make the concept even bigger. People could place their own products in the shop and sell them here.”
Co-operatives are enjoying a steadily increasing popularity worldwide and symbolize as no other project that a group of people has the capacity to change the rules of the game. Notwithstanding, it is not a system that works for everybody and not each person can bring in the same degree of commitment. But being a member in a co-operative is not only measured on how much you bring in, but also on how much every single person takes out of it and uses.