Food buying clubs & co-ops

Food buying clubs and co-ops offer group purchase and distribution of selected grocery items, generally at a reduced price. Food cooperatives typically function either as pre-order buying clubs or as retail cooperative food stores.   

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced food costs

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased access to healthy food

  • Increased food security

Evidence of Effectiveness

USDA-affiliated experts indicate that buying clubs and co-ops can reduce food costs (). A number of case studies also suggest that buying clubs and co-ops can have positive effects on food purchases (, , Shuman 2009). Buying clubs and co-ops may also increase healthy food access, choices, and food security for low income families (Morales 2014). Overall, however, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects. 

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Food buying clubs and co-ops exist throughout the country; the Coop Directory Service has a listing of co-ops in 48 states (Coop-Directory) and the National Cooperative Grocers Association represents retail food cooperative stores in 35 states (NCGA-Stores). United Natural Foods serves more than 1,800 buying clubs (UNFI-Buying Clubs).

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Shuman 2009 - Shuman M, Barron A, Wasserman W. Community food enterprise: Local success in a global marketplace. Arlington: Wallace Center at Winrock International; 2009.

Kantor 2001* - Kantor LS. Community food security programs improve food access. Food Review. 2001;24(1):20-6.

Little 2010* - Little R, Maye D, Ilbery B. Collective purchase: Moving local and organic foods beyond the niche market. Environment and Planning A. 2010;42(8):1797-813.

Carroll 2011* - Carroll JD, Demment MM, Stiles SB, et al. Overcoming barriers to vegetable consumption by preschool children: A child care center buying club. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 2011;6(2):153-65.

Morales 2014 - Morales A, Loker A. Welcome to the club! Rural Cooperatives. 2014;81(1):24-28,38.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Coop-Directory - Coop Directory Service. Coop Directory Service listing.

NCGA-Stores - National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA). Putting it all together for food co-ops.

UNFI-Buying Clubs - United Natural Foods Incorporated (UNFI). A website exclusively for UNFI buying clubs.

Date Last Updated

Aug 26, 2014