a brief summary ...
Established in 1975, the FoE-M Food Co-op was one of the first in Australia. In 1979 it moved into a shop front in Carlton. It began with the twin aims of enacting FoE's political philosophy on a practical level and helping with the provision of funds to support FoE-M's wider activities. In turn, the FoE office serves as an administrative and political resource for the Co-op.
Today the Co-op continues its strong philosophical and educational commitment and does far more than just sell food. As part of FoE(M), and through active links with FoE€™s campaigns, it promotes issues relating to food and works to bring these into people's daily lives. Those who shop at the Co-op are part of a thriving and sustainable inner city community. Trust, along with personal and collective responsibility are inherent in the food co-op model which offers a tangible alternative to faceless supermarkets.
The Co-op uses a range of criteria in deciding which foods to stock. This includes how the food was produced, pesticide contamination, nutritional value, recycling and packaging, and ethical trading.
As a practical approach to the issue of packaging and resource use, the Co-op policy is to buy in bulk and find suppliers who have returnable containers. Co-op shoppers also provide their own re-usable bags and containers which promotes community awareness of the value of recycling.
The Co-op provides information on nutrition and the foodstuffs it sells, and helps make people aware of what is in their food and how it is grown. The Co-op's aim is to educate consumers to enable them to make informed choices about what they are purchasing as well as making them aware of their right to healthy, whole food.
Consumer awareness of the processing of food is a fundamental issue of concern. Because of the squeeze put on co-ops by corporate take-overs of the wholesale healthfood industry, the Co-op is trying to network an alternative supply system with growers whose philosophy is compatible with FoE(M)'s.
The provision of nutritious food for people on low incomes is another goal and the Co-op is pleased to be able to maintain its mark-up at only 30 per cent and to give a 15 per cent discount to those who work roster shifts. The co-op pioneered and remains in the forefront of moves to make high quality food available at affordable prices.
A parallel project at FoE(M) for many years was the food justice centre. This was established in 1979 and was a campaign centred on food justice both in Australia and the rest of the world. It hosted a number of conferences on the themes of "the politics of food", produced newsletters and publications and worked to raise awareness about food justice issues. In particular, a focus of this work was ownership of food (including production and distribution) and the international dimensions of current food production, including working and living conditions for workers in the Third world.