sabato 1 settembre 2012

Food co-ops make a big difference in US communities

A recent study conducted by the National Cooperative Grocers Association in the US shows how food co-ops make a difference in their local communities. The report, “Healthy foods, Healthy communities,” looks at the social and economic impact of food co-ops in the US.

The study highlights how co-ops are superior to the conventional grocery industry — those stores that are privately or investor-owned — in terms of the proportion of energy efficiency, environmental impact, healthy and environmental food provided and the job opportunities offered.

For every USD1,000 a shopper spends at their local food co-op, USD1,604 in economic activity is generated in their local economy — USD239 more than if they had spent that same USD1,000 at a conventional grocer in the same community.

A typical co-op in the US works with over 150 individual local farmers and food producers as opposed to only 65 local farmers and food producers in the case of the conventional stores

Co-ops source over 40% meats, 35% deli, 31% dairy, 11% grocery and 11% general merchandise from local producers, as opposed to only 5% meats, 3% deli, 9% dairy, 2% grocery and 5% general merchandise in the case of the conventional sector. Moreover, in a co-op store 82% of produce sales are organic, while only 12% are organic in a conventional store.

Retail food co-operatives also create jobs for the local communities. The average food co-op creates 9.3 jobs for every million dollars in sales. A typical co-op creates USD10 million a year in revenue and provides employment for over 90 workers, or nine workers per million. In contrast, a conventional grocer creates only 5.8 jobs per million dollars in sales.

Overall, co-ops generally pay comparable wages to their competitors. For some occupations such as cashiers, stock clerks or food prep workers, the average hourly wage is higher for co-op workers than for employees within the conventional sector. Due to various bonuses and profit sharing, co-op employees earn an average of USD14.31 per hour compared to USD13.35 for their peers in the traditional sector.

Furthermore, 68% are eligible for health insurance in the co-op sector, where as less than half are eligible in the conventional sector, due to the fact that there are more part-time employees than in this sector. Employees also highly value the co-op principles and appreciate their workplace culture and the benefits.

A food co-op in the US spends an estimated 38% of revenues locally, while a conventional grocer spends 24%. Food co-ops also help to redistribute the revenue to the local economy.

A co-op with USD10 million in annual sales generates USD16 million of local economic impact. On the other hand, a local conventional grocery store of the same size, in the same community, would have an annual economic impact of USD13.6 million. This means that by choosing to support and shop at a food co-op, a community can increase its total economic activity by over USD2.4 million a year.

The study shows that co-ops also have more efficient environmental policies because consumers themselves are involved in the decision making process.

A typical NCGA food co-op recycles 96% of its cardboard waste, 81% of its plastics and 96% cardboard, as opposed to 36%, 29% and 91% in the conventional sector. Food co-ops are also involved in energy conservation projects. Co-op food stores have scored an average energy score of 82 out of 100, while conventional grocery stores have only scored only 50.

• The National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) is a business services co-operative for retail food co-ops located throughout the United States. For more information on the study, visit:

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