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Issue 6

Winter 2011-12

true food news How heart warming it is to get recognition from the BBC (see below) for all the hard work and commitment everyone has shown to make True Food the success it is. While we’ve all pulled together in whatever way we could to make this happen, we rarely have the opportunity to socialise and get to know each other. After a chat at the shop, Helen Warren and I decided to start holding weekly coffee mornings. It’s so good to put faces to names I’ve seen in emails and reports. In the last month I’ve got to know twice as many True Food people as I have in the last seven years! With the same thinking in mind, Helen and I are also pulling together a team to organise a big party in the New Year to celebrate our award win and our 7th birthday. If you’d like to get involved, please email me at, putting ‘True Food party’ in the subject line. Let’s get together and let our hair down — we deserve it!


True Food wins BBC award! True Food Co-op has won the Best Retail Initiative Award at the BBC Food and Farming Awards. Receiving this prestigious national award, won last year by Sainsbury’s, is a major achievement. Committee member Helen Warren, who nominated True Food, explains more. and run a market. Reading the invitation to nominate We wouldn’t find out whether we entrants to the Food and Farming had won until the awards ceremony at Awards on the BBC website this summer, the BBC Good Food Show on 23 something caught my eye: “We’re November. interested in an innovation that's When the big day arrived, Helen improving the way good quality food is Wright, Chris Aldridge and I set out for sourced and sold.” Wow, I thought. That Birmingham’s NEC in our Sunday best, sounds like True Food! full of anticipation. While the Best As we settled into our Food Market seats we began category might have celebrity chef been a more spotting. Then tiny obvious choice, the Sheila Dillon took to Best Retail Initiative the stage and the description struck a show began. chord, so I followed My heart sank my instinct and when the first award submitted my went to a community nomination. Copyright © BBC shop up north run by I can admit now Helen, Chris and I receiving the award volunteers. “Too like that I spent several from Stefan Gates us!” I squeaked. weeks checking the Ours was the eighth award to be awards page obsessively to see whether announced. By that point I couldn’t sit we’d been shortlisted. Then what a still, and I think I’d stopped breathing flurry of activity ensued once the news by the time gastronaut Stefan Gates was confirmed! announced, “And the winner is… True On 26 October judges Robert Clark Food Community Co-operative.” and Michael Jack arrived for a long day Jumping up and down, arms in the observing and recording. Both came air, the three of us went up on stage to with high credentials in the food world, receive the award. Chris beaming, and this showed in the depth and range Helen in tears, with huge pictures of of the questions they asked. True Food displayed across the back of They explored every aspect of True the stage. Food, including the shop and the setting It was a wonderful day, meeting and up and running of the markets. I mingling with the very best of the food think they were surprised at how world, people who share our professional and expansive True Food commitment to and passion for good is — they certainly appreciated what a food — true food. logistical achievement it is to set up

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We own it, we run it, we love it!

Voluntary editorial team Editor Tess Swiestowska Copywriter Kathryn McCann Proofreader Alice Murphy

Pride of Reading award for Anna Healthy eating ambassador Anna Batchelor, who volunteers as True Food’s Communications Co-ordinator, has just been honoured with a Pride of Reading Award in the ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ category. Anna was nominated by Wokingham Food Festival organiser, Kate Lole, for encouraging people to enjoy healthy food through her blog,, as well as the work she does at True Food. Anna discovered she had won the award at a ceremony at the Crowne Plaza hotel on 23 November. “Shortly after leaving the stage with my trophy in hand I received a text message with the fantastic news that True Food had also won at the Food and Farming Awards,” says a delighted Anna. “What a day!” Earlier in the month she was disappointed when she failed to be elected to the Soil Association council, where she hoped to give a voice to food co-ops across the country. However, encouragingly, she received more internet votes from Soil Association members than any other candidate. “Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to vote for me,” says Anna. “The Soil Association is currently campaigning with the motto ‘Good Food For All’. That’s what food co-ops are all about so, with your support, I hope I’ll have more luck at next year’s election. We’re on a roll now!”

Tel: 0118 946 1188

What makes True Food markets so special…

Seeking new market venues

by Chris Aldridge

by Rebecca Green True Food is looking for new market venues. Can you help? We’re looking for halls, pub function rooms or community centres to host new True Food markets. We’ll consider any suitable venue in the Greater Reading area, but the main driver will be communities showing a strong desire to have an award-winning local and organic food market in their neighbourhood. If you want TFC to come to you, now is your chance to rally your friends and neighbours. To be considered, venues will need to: be available from 4-9.45pm on Mondays or Tuesdays, or Saturdays 12-6pm • be on or near a busy thoroughfare, to generate passing trade • offer safe access and parking for an eight-foot-wide lorry • have customer parking and a place to lock bikes • have minimal steps to allow access with trolleys (we can make a shallow ramp • have sufficient power sockets for digital scales • and be affordable to hire — ideally less than £50 per session. If you know of a venue that could fit the bill, please contact me at

UPDATE: As we go to press the committee is considering two potential venues — Trinity Church Hall, Lower Earley, and Southcote Children's Centre. Before moving forward we need to establish the level of support in those communities. So if you live near one of these venues and would be interested in shopping or helping at a new local market, please get in touch.

On the wall of my office at our Emmer Green shop is a photo of seven people who helped to form the 2003 steering group that created True Food Community Co-operative. It’s amazing to think how what began life as an organic food-buying club, with occasional static meetings, has developed. We now have over 400 members and serve more than a thousand people across Reading from our shop and three weekly markets. Despite the gloomy economic climate our takings are up year on year, reflecting the growing support for what True Food Co-op is doing and what we stand for. This really shows in the fresh ideas and hands-on participation of committed and enthusiastic members and helpers. As a result our markets now look more professional, stock a wider variety of foods and have a real buzz about them. It’s great to see so many people enjoying the markets each week, buying old favourite products and trying new ones, as well as meeting old friends and making new ones! I feel there’s a clear desire among the people of our town to support True Food as a better, healthier and more sustainable way of shopping. Anyone who joins True Food as a member has a wide variety of opportunities to get involved in improving the local food scene. What better example of the success of this than winning a national award that last went to Sainsbury’s? In the Food and Farming Awards programme, broadcast on Friday 25 November on BBC Radio 4, one of the judges, Robert Clark, summarised: “What really impressed us about True Food was that here was a grocery-retailing model that can be brought straight to your community directly from a local hub. So any town of any size could set up an equivalent of True Food and you would have a viable, sustainable alternative to your local supermarket.” I think we can all be very proud of what we’ve achieved — it’s all thanks to the passion and commitment of people like you. Happy New Year!

JOIN US IN JANUARY! If you’re already a member of True Food Co-op, don’t forget to renew in January to reap maximum benefit. If you haven’t joined yet, why not make it a New Year’s resolution? Whether you’re joining for the first time or renewing, membership costs just £10 for the year and you’ll receive £20 worth of vouchers, which you can put towards everything you buy at True Food. The membership scheme is designed to encourage active participation. If you help out for three hours or more during each four-week period, you’ll receive £30 of discount vouchers plus special offers to say thanks. You can join at the till at any True Food market or at the shop.

Investing in True Food

A REAL alternative to supermarkets

In the last issue we reported on a new scheme agreed at June’s annual general meeting to seek £100,000 of capital from True Food supporters. Here’s our Chairman, Rupert Shute, with an update.

I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved, winning the BBC award, and particularly what the judges said about True Food offering a real alternative to supermarket shopping.

The loan stock system we agreed on will involve individuals and businesses investing £500 or more in TFC as loan stock. The plan is to put this money towards funding the opening of two additional markets and buying a new truck. We’ll repay our local investors in full in the form of groceries over three years, starting a year after the initial investment. We’re currently redoubling our efforts to find suitable venues for the new markets (see Seeking new market venues, above). This has to be our top priority at the moment, so

To me this means supplying food for every member of the community while still sticking to our principles. So while a lot of people think of us as a source of specialist foods, catering for special dietary requirements, the vast majority of our customers are ordinary families who just want to eat real food, ethically sourced. Yes, we sell gluten-free oats — probably two or three packets a week — but we sell 100kg of ordinary oats in the same period. We can get wheatgrass to order and keep sprouted seeds at the shop, but compared to the quantities of carrots, spuds, apples and oranges that we shift, these sales are minimal. And while we stock a fantastic variety of tofu compared to even the bigger supermarkets, we also do a brisk trade in meat. So next time you’re thinking of stocking up, have a wander round True Food before heading to one of our heavyweight competitors. You might be surprised at what you find.

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we’re holding off from officially launching the loan stock scheme until the new venues are lined up. However, I’m delighted to confirm that Peter and Juliet Kindersley of Sheepdrove Organic Farm have agreed to match every pound invested with one of their own until we reach our target of £100,000. Early expressions of interest are rolling in, and £32,000 has already been pledged (including £16,000 from Peter and Juliet). If you would like to add your support, please email me at

by Joanna MacDouall

We own it, we run it, we love it!

Tel: 0118 946 1188

SUPPLIER SPOTLIGHT OrganiPets The owners of OrganiPets, the suppliers of our organic pet food, buy organic food for themselves because they believe it’s tastier, has fewer additives and is kinder to the environment. To them it makes sense to feed pets based on the same principles.

Keeping loose produce fresh One of the main ways True Food helps customers save money while eating healthily is through selling loose dry produce, from sundried tomatoes to muesli. How do they make sure the produce on sale is fresh?

Earlier this year True Food helper Nicola Tippler got chatting to a regular customer at a social event. He mentioned that the last time he’d bought dates and figs they were rather dry and wondered whether they were old. Nicola promised to investigate, and duly emailed him, saying: “I have followed up your queries as promised. We have a very high turnover of dates — they are one of our most popular dried fruits. They come from Tunisia and are beautifully packed in sealed boxes. However, there can sometimes be considerable variation in the quality, even within the same shipment. We presume this is because there are many small-scale farmers supplying them. “We know that Infinity, the wholesalers, have visited suppliers of figs in Turkey in the past, to try and encourage more consistency in the quality of the fruits. Jo, our buyer, recommends the small figs for eating and the large ones for cooking.

“The dates and small figs currently in stock are really succulent — I tried them yesterday.” But how does True Food manage to keep up the turnover of loose produce and ensure older stock is sold before new? Shop Manager, Alex Trott, explains: “We have two sets of all our 60 bins, allowing us to have a full set at both the shop and markets. The bins in the shop are topped up at the end of each day. If a new sack or box of any product needs to be opened, we tip the remaining product in the bin out into an empty one, put in the new stock then put back the older product on top. This way stock is never left sitting at the bottom of a bin. “The next morning we take the bins that have come back from the market off the lorry and put them out in the shop. The newly topped up bins then go out onto the lorry for the next market. This ensures that all the bins come through the shop for restocking and stock rotation.” So now we know!

Coffee mornings for Children in Need by Tess Swiestowska Raffy — the inspiration behind OrganiPets

They were inspired to start OrganiPets after their dog, Raffy, was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live. They looked around for organic pet food to try and keep her as healthy as possible. When they couldn’t find anything suitable they started making their own. Five years later, Raffy is still going strong and her owners are creating organic food for thousands of other dogs and cats to enjoy. Visit the website at for more details about their story and products, and look out for offers on OrganiPets cat and dog foods coming soon for Active Members.

On Friday 18 and Saturday 19 November, True Food supporters gathered at the shop in Emmer Green to enjoy coffee and cake while raising funds for Children in Need.

A good number of people turned up on both days to sample freshly brewed ethical coffee and a wide range of delicious cakes. We all enjoyed each other’s company as well as Pudsey-themed fundraising fun. And it was great to see children making themselves at home, taking full advantage of our emerging social area. A huge thank you to True Food and the individuals who generously donated cakes, drinks and prizes, and also to everyone who came along. Together we raised £137.44. Following on from the success of these events, Helen Warren and I have decided to hold weekly coffee mornings on Fridays, from 10.30am-12.30pm. If you’re free one Friday morning, please pop in and join us for a chat about anything that takes your fancy over delicious, ethically sourced refreshments.

Shop Manager Alex Trott presenting Pudsey’s cake competition winner, Russell Stevenson, with his prize

True Food on BBC Radio Berkshire True Food got an extra few minutes in the limelight in the run-up to the Food and Farming Awards, when Maggie Philbin broadcast live from the shop for BBC Radio Berkshire. Local Food Co-ordinator, Helen Wright, reports.

On Monday 21 November True Food was featured on BBC Radio Berkshire’s breakfast show. I remember Maggie from Multi-Coloured Swap Shop and Tomorrow’s World, so I was excited to meet her. The show aired two days before the results of the Food and Farming Awards were revealed, and she started by talking to our Communications Co-ordinator, Anna, about our nomination and the judging process. Then she spoke to me about local produce. Being interviewed live was nerve-wracking, especially as I was slightly thrown by the first question about the benefits of local mud! She then went on to speak to Active Members, Helen and Mary, about why they were involved and Chris spoke about setting up True Food. There was plenty of time to drink tea and chat between interviews. If you caught the show, you’ll have noticed that Maggie got a little distracted by our tea cosy!

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Maggie and the crew getting cosy at the shop

We own it, we run it, we love it!

Tel: 0118 946 1188

What True Food means to me One of our newest shoppers, Susie Gray, recounts the fascinating journey that brought her to True Food. I arrived in England from my beloved New England, USA, on October 18th. But my story begins last February when a friend of mine came to the UK. He visited PH Coate & Son in Taunton, makers of willow crafts, and posted many pictures online. I was fascinated not only by the place — I was hooked on willow! I started dreaming about visiting England and learning about willow for myself. A few days later I got an email from an old friend saying her husband was being transferred to England. I told her I was seriously thinking about a trip to England too. She encouraged me to pursue it, saying I could stay with them in Henley-on-Thames. Almost by accident one day, I located the website of a person who works with willow in Kent. I emailed him and very shortly got a positive response back. My decision was made, I was coming to England! Being accustomed to eating organically and using eco-friendly products for the body and home, I began searching for a store where I might be able to get the same quality products I was used to, in or near Henley. My research led me to True Food Community Co-operative’s website. I was excited to discover a source of the healthy foods and products I was looking for. I had a few specific brands I hoped to locate and sent off an email to the address on the website. Almost immediately, I got a friendly response back from Chris with product ideas and suggestions. I had plenty more questions and he addressed all of them in his kind and gracious manner. With all the unknowns in my life at that moment, it was such a relief to be certain that I could get myself to Emmer Green via public transportation and be able to buy a bunch of locally grown organic kale, a jar of organic peanut butter, healthy hand lotion and eco-friendly home care products. It wasn’t until a few weeks after my arrival that I was able to make my way to TFC. But when I did it was such a pleasure to meet Chris and Joanna and the other lovely people working at the store that day. I was finally able to buy the organic kale I’d been craving along with as many other staples as I could possibly fit into my backpack for the bus and train trip back to Henley. As the name suggests, I know that creating community is a large part of TFC’s mission. From my very personal standpoint, I think you’re doing a remarkable job. I felt a part of it when I was still on the other side of the ocean!

You can read Susie’s blog about her time in the UK at

My True Food top 10 Name: Sarah Lucas Occupation: Archaeological graphics technician and ‘Dolly’ in local band Dolly and the Clothespegs True Food market: Queens Road 1) Blue Cheese Style Cheezly (I’ve been vegan for six years and used to love blue cheese) 2) Taifun Japanese Style Tofu Filets (it’s delicious fried with soy sauce and lemon juice in a sandwich) 3) Montezuma’s Dark Chocolate with Orange and Geranium (because it really tastes like flowers — a lovely treat) 4) Sojade Soya Drink 5) Loose dried fruits (including for my Christmas cake!) 6) Doves Farm flours (including spelt flour) 7) Loose seeds 8) Provamel soya yogurt 9) Marigold Organic Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder 10) Tick Tock Organic Rooibos Loose Leaf Tea

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We own it, we run it, we love it!

Holiday win for Beth and Chin True Food member Beth Scott and her husband Chin Yee enjoyed a walking holiday this autumn thanks to Co-operatives UK. Beth tells the story. During Co-operatives Fortnight, True Food held a launch for our new membership pack. At the event I signed a petition for Co-operatives UK’s campaign to narrow the gap between rich and poor. A few weeks later I heard that my name had been picked out in a prize draw to win a week's fullboard walking holiday for two!

Beth and Chin enjoying their holiday

We chose St Ives, Cornwall, for our holiday in late October, which was generously donated by co-operative tour operator, HF Holidays. On arrival we had a cream tea and met some of the other guests. It was immediately apparent that it was going to live up to its claim of being a sociable holiday! Every day there was a choice of at least three walks. We went on the medium ones — seven or eight miles with around 1,000 feet of ascent. They were mostly around the coastal path, with stops to see mines, churches and other points of interest. The walk leaders, all volunteers, were excellent — really friendly and capable. We had a great time. The weather was kind to us, we walked through some beautiful countryside with some great people, ate loads, slept well and made new friends. We’d happily take another HF Holiday – in fact we’re already planning it!

Market and shop opening times Wesley Methodist Hall, Queens Road Wednesday — 5pm-8.15pm Wycliffe Church Hall, Kings Road, Newtown (entrance on Kings Road) Thursday — 5pm-8.15pm Silverdale Centre, Silverdale Road, Earley Friday — 5pm-8.15pm TFC Shop, Grove Road, Emmer Green Monday — 8.30am-8pm Tuesday — 8.30am-5.30pm Wednesday — 8.30am-5.30pm Thursday — 8.30am-5.30pm Friday — 8.30am-5.30pm Saturday — 10am-4pm

Tel: 0118 946 1188

True Food News - Issue 6  

Winter 2011 issue of True Food Co-op's newsletter