By RIDA ALI, age 10

The North Carolina General Assembly estimates that there are more than 47,000 cooperatives in the United States, serving over 130 million people daily. PHOTO: Andy Piper
The North Carolina General Assembly estimates that there are more than 47,000 cooperatives in the United States, serving over 130 million people daily. PHOTO: Andy Piper

A food cooperative,* or a co-op, is a supermarket where people go to buy good quality food and to save money. The difference between a co-op and a regular supermarket is that co-op members decide what foods to buy and how to purchase and distribute them.

They are also meeting the growing demand for fresher foods with fewer pesticides and a desire to support local farmers. The North Carolina General Assembly estimates that there are more than 47,000 cooperatives in the United States, serving over 130 million people daily.

G. Evelyn Lampart, who has been a member of the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn, NY, for more than 30 years, says, “Co-ops help make healthy food affordable to everyone by keeping the overhead** low and not having to pay most employees. These lower prices can help people on a tight budget.”

Studies have shown that wealthy communities have three times as many supermarkets as poor ones. According to the Food Empowerment Project, an organization dedicated to food justice issues, many people live in areas where access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is limited. These areas are called food deserts.

Currently, a community in South Los Angeles is organizing to open the SoLA Food Co-op in response to expensive yet poor quality food in their area. According to organizers, “SoLA’s members plan to not only provide great choices in food shopping, but to empower each other and the community economically.”

*Cooperative: a business, farm, living space or other organization that is owned jointly by all of its members. They work together to run/maintain it and share all profits or benefits.

**Overhead: the money that it costs to run an operation (in this case, a grocery store)