Food cooperatives are not only a way to get involved in the community – they can also allow you to do your weekly food shop at a discount price.
At Coopalim in Strasbourg, for example, only members of the cooperative can do their shopping there, and they are also the volunteers who keep the shop running.
Members must invest at least €100 (which can be refunded on leaving), and volunteer for at least three hours every four weeks.
This participative set-up means members can scan their own items, and even pay by bank transfer once home.
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Members protected against inflation
Amandine Deguin, a volunteer with Coopalim, said: “Prices of fruit and veg are generally very low despite their high quality because we favour seasonal, local products and buy directly from producers.”
For cheese and meat, the choice of quality products means prices can be slightly higher than elsewhere.
However, she said the co-op model had helped them protect members from inflation.
“As we have few middlemen, price rises were limited to those imposed by producers.
“We have not increased our margins, meaning rises are marginal, especially as organic producers are not impacted by price rises to fertilisers or pesticides.”
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Paris shop inspired by Brooklyn
La Louve, in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, functions in the same way, with a €100 subscription and three hours of volunteering per month.
The project was founded by two Americans living in France, inspired by the Park Slope Food Coop, which opened in Brooklyn in 1973.
La Louve now has more than 6,000 members who work and shop in the 1,450m² facility.
It also claims to offer products that are 15% to 40% less expensive on average than other supermarkets because there are fewer intermediaries, no marketing costs, members participate, and profits are reinvested into the shop.
Flurry of new shops across France
Many cooperatives focus on local or organic produce, but they usually have a range so members are not priced out.
Recent years have seen a flurry of new co-ops opening across the country, including in Rennes, Marseille and Lille.
A slightly outdated map showing some of France’s co-ops is at supermarches-cooperatifs.fr
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