A food co-op is, simply, a legally recognized member-owned grocery store.
A key defining characteristic of a food co-op is that it is run by a board of directors, who hire a general manager to run the grocery store. Only Owners can be on the board of directors, and only Owners can vote for the board of directors. In a food co-op, the board of directors runs the show. They oversee the operations and finances, establish co-op policies, hire and monitor the general manager, create employee benefits, and ensure that the purpose and mission of the Co-op are faithfully carried out.
Overall, the operation of the food co-op belongs to the Owners, and the profits of the co-op go back to the Owners.
Chicago Market will be unique, but it also follows in a long, rich history of food cooperatives around the country.
All co-ops operate under the same guiding principles:
1. Membership is open to all.
2. Each member gets a vote.
3. Each shareholder gets a share of the profits.
4. Members are the owners.
5. Community education is vital.
6. Cooperation with other co-ops is key.
7. Community stewardship, through donations, events and other activities, is at the center of everything.
Cooperative buying harnesses the power of the group in purchasing, and allows the community to create its most-successful systems and rules.
The popularity of food co-ops has been cyclical over the years. Many were founded during the Depression, as a way for people to pool their limited resources for the greatest good. Still others flourished in the 1960s and 1970s as the environmental movement grew and people became increasingly concerned about their food supply.
There's currently a resurgence in interest in food co-ops -- largely due to growing concern about health and food safety. There are now more than 330 food co-ops around the United States, including almost 70 that started in recent years, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Chicago Market is excited to take its place in co-op history.