How food-buying clubs are reducing food costs and strengthening communities.
When Rebecca Andersson started a Meetup.com group in 2007 for green-minded moms in Portland, Oregon, she had playdates and potlucks on her mind. But the group of 20 or so women swiftly discovered a shared passion for safe, healthy food and a desire to get it at affordable prices. If small natural-foods stores ordered from wholesale distributors, why couldn’t they? So Andersson contacted an organic distributor, got the moms to ante up, placed an order—and Know Thy Food food-buying club was born.
Food-buying clubs gained popularity in the ’70s and are seeing a resurgence in this down economy. Thousands of clubs have sprung up around the country—there are over 100 in Portland alone, although Know Thy Food is by far the largest, with 550-plus members. Unlike food co-ops—member-owned businesses that meet certain legal requirements and may have retail stores—food-buying clubs are informal groups of people who pool time and buying power to save on high-quality, healthy food that is delivered to a drop-off location. In fact, Andersson estimates that members save upwards of 25 percent off grocery-store prices.
Know Thy Food’s success, says Andersson, is due to an easy-to-use online ordering system (which Andersson set up from open-source software with the help of her software-developer husband and localfoodcoop.org) and breadth of local offerings—many local farmers, bakers and other food producers sell such goods as eggs from pastured ducks and Oregon berries directly to the buying club. Want to join a club? Search for one in your area or start your own.
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Photo Credit: Sarah Gilbert