Co-op 101

What is a co-op?

Simply put, co-op is an independent, democratic organization owned, operated, and financed by its members, committed to the people it serves and the communities in which they live.

What do all co-ops have in common?

Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. Cooperatives trace the roots of these principles to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844.

1. Voluntary and Open Membership
2. Democratic Member Control
3. Members' Economic Participation
4. Autonomy and Independence
5. Education, Training and Information
6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
7. Concern for Community

Why a co-op? We have a health food store/bodega/supermarket.

A food cooperative...

  • a high-value economic asset to the community.

  • ...offers high-quality, healthy foods at affordable prices.

  • ...supports locally-owned farms and businesses in the Lehigh Valley.

  • run democratically by members.

  • ...helps support a sense of community.

How did co-ops come about?

Cooperation is not new. Early human societies cooperated by sharing hunting, fishing, farming and shelter practices to improve their chances of survival.

Cooperatives began to take more formal shape in the late 18th century as people moved from farms to cities. No longer able to grow their own food, they relied on privately owned stores to provide nourishment. Often, the prices were high and the selection was limited.

As less powerful members of these new cities, the workers, consumers, farmers and producers banded together to gain economic clout. They improved their options through joint purchases of supplies and services, and kept their costs low. They answered to themselves, and when change was needed, it was made. They became a co-op—a business run by the people, for the people.

To learn more about the Rochdale Pioneers, who founded the first co-op, check out this video:


Food Co-Ops vs. Conventional Grocery Stores 

A useful infographic demonstrating the difference between cooperative and traditional grocery stores.


Informational Videos

Here is a great intro to food co-ops from our friends at the Food Co-Op Initiative:

Here are some nifty facts about co-ops across the USA:

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