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Food buying clubs & co-ops

Health Factors: Diet & Exercise
Decision Makers: Community Members Employers & Businesses Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Expert Opinion
Population Reach: 100% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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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

Reduced food costs
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 (Kantor 2001). A number of case studies also suggest that buying clubs and co-ops can have positive effects on food purchases (Little 2010, Carroll 2011, 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. 


United States

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).


The Organic Consumers Association has a list of food buying clubs available in Wisconsin (OCA-WI list).  

Citations - Evidence

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. Accessed on November 30, 2015
Kantor 2001* - Kantor LS. Community food security programs improve food access. Food Review. 2001;24(1):20-6. Accessed on May 20, 2016
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. Accessed on March 1, 2016
Morales 2014 - Morales A, Loker A. Welcome to the club! Rural Cooperatives. 2014;81(1):24-28,38. Accessed on January 27, 2016
Shuman 2009 - Shuman M, Barron A, Wasserman W. Community food enterprise: Local success in a global marketplace. Arlington: Wallace Center at Winrock International; 2009. Accessed on March 14, 2016

Citations - Implementation

Coop-Directory - Coop Directory Service. Coop Directory Service listing. Accessed on December 10, 2015
NCGA-Stores - National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA). Putting it all together for food co-ops. Accessed on March 1, 2016
OCA-WI list - Organic Consumers Association (OCA). Wisconsin community supported agriculture & buying clubs. Accessed on November 10, 2015
UNFI-Buying Clubs - United Natural Foods Incorporated (UNFI). A website exclusively for UNFI buying clubs. Accessed on November 18, 2015

Page Last Updated

August 26, 2014

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