What is a Co-op?
A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
In our instance, The River City Food Coop is a member-owned, non-profit grocery store (open to the public) that strives to offer healthy foods at reasonable prices.
Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.Learn more about memberships here.
3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
5th Principle: Education, Training and Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7th Principle: Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
Source: International Co-operative Alliance News, No. 5/6, 1995.
Our Co-op here in Evansville has a mission to its surrounding community high quality food at an affordable cost. For years the south/downtown Evansville neighborhood where River City Food Coop is located lacked a grocery store that was either affordable or that sold nutritious foods. Because many of the poor have limited transportation, they are forced to buy food that is highly processed and overpriced in “food deserts” such as these. This leads to problems of malnutrition and poor eating habits that last a lifetime.
The co-op helps the neighborhood in a variety of ways:
1. We offer a large selection of high quality (mostly organic) food that competes in price to the low-quality food that much of the neighborhood is used to.
2. We accept food stamps, accommodating people living on a limited budget.
3. We provide recipes and will soon begin educational workshops to introduce people to new foods and help people find things to eat that are fast and healthy.
4. We are creating a community of people that is engaged in the working and in the every day functions of the coop, thus boosting the social capital of individuals and the community.
5. Eventually, the co-op hopes to hire individuals from the membership base that will help with the everyday functioning of the store and the social outlets.
6. Because the co-op is a non-profit organization, the proceeds will be reinvested back in the co-op as well as other social programs within the local community.
These benefits will also reach into the larger community because Evansville lacks a viable source for high quality food, bulk foods, and organic products.
This page is the property of River City Food Co-op. Any information may be used, but please credit us for its use.