A simple idea that keeps popping up

The idea of ordinary people working together to regain control of their food supply has a long history.

The co-operative movement takes its inspiration from the Rochdale Pioneers, a group of workers who took issue with the adulterated food sold into poor Lancashire neighbourhoods in the Victorian era – and took action. They began bypassing profiteering stores to go direct to the source, bulk buying essential goods like flour to sell on to members.

More than a century later, one of many shoots emerging from the US counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s was the ‘food conspiracy’ movement, a growing wave of small-scale neighbourhood bulk buying clubs that was particularly prominent in the San Francisco Bay area. This upsurge of energy around food ultimately supported the emergence of a network of alternative wholesalers supplying hundreds of co-op stores across the country.

Post-war Japan also saw a mushrooming of consumer food co-operatives, providing an alternative distribution system in the midst of grave economic and social challenges. From the 1960s, a widespread network of ‘Han’ groups became established, built on small clusters of households combining their orders for delivery. Today, these autonomous groups continue to encompass millions of members, serviced by the Seikatsu food co-op infrastructure.

Once you begin to look, you find that a broadly similar  approach has popped up across a range of contexts and responding to different needs and motivations: from a defense strategy by the poor to a rejection of the supermarket system and packaging waste.

About this site

This site aims to encourage and support the setting up of further bulk buying clubs and small food co-ops in Ireland by sharing the experience of individuals who have operated a ‘pop-up wholefoods’ model over a number of years.