Food Activists Create Co-operatives to Counter Supermarket Dominance

Andrew Wilbur, a geographer and allotment gardener, doesn’t want to change how Scotland eats so much as how it sources its food. Although he enjoyed the weekly organic vegetable bag he had delivered to his door by The Whole Shebag, a West Lothian company, he wanted to transform his interest in sustainable agriculture from an act of consumption to one of activism. This led to the founding of Southside Foodshare, a neighbourhood food cooperative in Glasgow. Having run the organisation for more than two years, Wilbur believes the time is right to roll out the Foodshare model on a national scale through a new social enterprise, Foodshare Scotland, which seeks to set up a network of linked cooperatives around the country.  
 
Wilbur established Southside Foodshare in 2009 with an initial membership of 15 households in the Govanhill, Strathbungo and Shawlands areas of Glasgow. Organic vegetables, fruit, milk and eggs are delivered to the restaurant Cookie on Nithsdale Rd. Members have customised orders, which they collect in reusable net bags. Delivering bulk orders to one location reduces delivery costs for The Whole Shebag, savings that are then passed on to Foodshare members in the form of a £2 discount per bag.  
 
‘We’ve been doing this for two years now and we know that the model works well,’ Wilbur says. ‘It’s lean and functional, but also very adaptable to other locations and other products. The trick is developing an infrastructure to make the connection between customers and suppliers more direct. We’ve experimented with different strategies and now we know what works.’
 
In trying to establish a Scotland-wide network of new cooperatives, Wilbur and Southside Foodshare’s Treasurer, Laura Francescangeli, want to use their experience to centralise the administrative difficulties of setting up and supporting new groups. They predict that if they can make the set-up process as simple as possible then they will have no trouble finding customers and suppliers who want to be involved.  
 
‘I’ve met a lot of people who say they wish they had something like Foodshare in their town or neighbourhood,’ claims Wilbur, ‘but they don’t have a strong enough sense of commitment to really make it happen. They don’t want to support the supermarkets but don’t really know what the alternatives are. The point of Foodshare Scotland is to take on all the headaches – things like the bank account application, researching suppliers and bookkeeping, so that interested parties don’t get stuck at the set-up stage.’  
 
Francescangeli and Wilbur are testing a new Scottish crowdfunding platform, Bloom Venture Catalysts, to raise funds for a feasibility study and pilot project. Their long-term aim is to secure sufficient funding for at least two years, during which they estimate they can establish 12 new cooperatives in different Scottish locations. Information on the crowdfunding initiative can be found at:

http://www.bloomvc.com/project/Scotland-Foodshare

—A-network-of-food-cooperatives- across-Scotland  
                                                           
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For more information or to schedule an interview, please get in touch with Andrew
Wilbur at southsidefoodshare@gmail.com. He will be in the United States until 2 March,
but will be happy to communicate by phone on (+1)209 599 2210.
Contact:      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Andrew Wilbur
southsidefoodshare@gmail.com                                             10 Feb, 2012
(+1)209 599 2210

Contact: Andrew Wilbur

Email: southsidefoodshare@gmail.com
Website: http://www.bloomvc.com/project/Scotland-Foodshare—A-network-of-food-cooperatives- across-Scotland