A warm welcome to the first issue of True Food News We’ve been on an amazing journey over the last six years as True Food Co-op has grown and evolved. The market and shop are now offering a wider range than ever, giving local people an unrivalled opportunity to shop ethically on their doorstep without having to slog past aisles full of less sustainable produce. I’ve been a member for two years now. I’m embarrassed to admit, though, that it’s only in the last few months that I’ve really grasped that True Food is OUR business, and the more we put into it, the more we ALL benefit. That’s what prompted me to volunteer to coordinate this newsletter. I'd love to hear about your experience of True Food Co-op as well as your ideas for the next issue in January 2011. Please contact me at email@example.com.
Voluntary editorial team Tess Swiestowska Editor Kathryn McCann Copywriter Alice Murphy Designer and subeditor
In the meantime, happy reading!
Tess Tess Swiestowska, editor
Many happy returns to Reading’s own True Food Co-op! On 15 December 2010 True Food Co-op celebrates six years as a community co-operative. Founder Chris Aldridge reminisces on the story so far. True Food began life back in 1999 as an informal organic food buying club. Two independent wholefood shops had recently closed down in Reading, after the opening of the Oracle forced commercial rent up beyond their means. So a few of us decided to get together to find a new way to buy our favourite wholefoods. I cobbled together a catalogue of organic food from wholesalers like Suma, Infinity Foods and Community Foods, and took it along to our first meeting at RISC. The 16 people who turned up became the core of the True Food Club. We’d discuss what we wanted to buy. I would then place the order and the next month we’d meet up again and share out the food. This worked OK, but we needed to make sure all the food was shared out because we didn’t have anywhere to store stock. At the time I was working as a carer for a lady called Peggy Ellis. I had previously worked on her son Aidan’s organic farm near Sonning Common, after giving up a career in IT to do something more sustainable. Peggy had a huge basement at her house in Caversham Heights and she kindly Page 1
Celebrating six years of supplying sustainable food to the people of Reading
offered this for storage. I found a big metal container in a skip and installed it in the basement to provide rodentproof storage. I still had some capital from my work in IT, and put some of this towards buying food storage bins and scoops. We were now able to increase the range of dry food we ordered, offer people the option to buy exactly the amount they wanted and expand our range of groceries. Sadly, in 2001, Peggy died and her son and daughter decided to sell her house. Desperate for a new storage space I approached the Rising Sun Arts
Centre. The manager, Larry Watson, kindly offered us a shed in the car park, saying, “It’s full of junk. But clear it, and it’s yours to use”. We started holding our markets at the Rising Sun, held a competition to design the original logo and bought weighing equipment. The markets soon became very popular, attracting passing trade including students. This was great but there was always a bit of a scrum around the scales! In 2003 I contacted a new organisation – Reading Community Enterprise Agency – to see if they could help us find funding to take the market mobile. A lady called Claire Morgan helped us to secure a £2,000 grant from Berkshire Community Foundation for a six-week trial of taking the mobile market to four community centres across Reading. The trial went well and we just about met our targets. So Claire suggested we apply for more funding to make True Food more formal. Up to that point it had been the most informal club you could find. Buy an organic chocolate bar and you’d become a member! Thanks to funding from the European Social Fund, on 15 December 2004 True Food was incorporated as a community co-op. Continued on page 2, column 2
ON THE HORIZON: Ensuring a sustainable future for the True Food Co-op True Food chairman, Rupert Shute, reports on progress since September’s meeting to discuss the future of True Food Co-op. Many of you attended the True Food meeting at the Museum of English Rural Life, where I shared details of how our costs are not being covered by sales. From talks on the day it was clear there’s a great desire for True Food to continue. A number of useful, productive things came out of that meeting, not least this newsletter! Since then, we have prioritised tasks and started to put then into action. The three most important at the moment are: 1. improving internal communication 2. growing our membership base (currently just 10% of our customers) 3. increasing our spending power so we can buy even more food directly from suppliers. At the meeting I revealed the monthly sales targets we would need to meet to get our finances back on track. Positively we met the target for September, however we failed to meet October’s. The targets are quite modest. We would easily achieve them if every shopper spent an extra £15 a week with True Food Co-op. This would solve the immediate financial difficulties and take us into a new realm of buying power. We could then bypass some of the wholesalers and buy more goods directly, which would result in lower prices for customers. Over the coming months, as we start to feel the effects of the Government’s spending review, what better way to help ourselves than to pool our resources and buy smart, ethically, locally and affordably by using True Food? Dr William King, an early founder of the co-operative movement, once said, “We must go to a shop every day to buy food and necessaries – why then should we not go to our own shop?”. We’re currently reviewing the membership scheme and will launch an improved package in January. So if you’re not already a member, why not make it a New Year’s resolution? Page 2
(Continued from page 1) From this point our clear aim has been to become self-sustaining. It’s about people, not profit, and any surplus goes back into developing the co-op and not into the pockets of individuals. That’s why volunteering is such an important part of what makes True Food Co-op tick, as well as allowing us to keep our prices competitive.
“It’s about people, not profit, and any surplus goes back into trading.” Now we have weekly markets at four locations across Reading plus the shop in Emmer Green, which doubles as a warehouse. Today True Food Co-op has more than 120 members, many more regular shoppers, and a growing team of dedicated volunteers. None of this would have been possible without the commitment of people including Stuart Major and Joanna MacDouall, who were around from True Food’s inception, our current chairman Rupert Shute, and many more. I look forward to seeing what the next six years will bring!
Awards for the True Food Co-op! We’ve just discovered that True Food Co-op will soon be receiving a prestigious award in recognition of the work we do to promote the local food economy in Reading. It’s all a bit hush-hush at the moment, but look out for more news soon! With one award already in the bag, wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could win another? The Telegraph is currently asking the British public to nominate their favourite small independent shops. To put your vote in for True Food, just go to www.telegraph.co.uk/ lifestyle/shopawards and click ‘Vote for your favourite independent shop’. Then put ‘True Food Co-op’ in the ‘Best for food’ box and ‘Grove Road, Emmer Green, Reading’ under ‘Street name and town’.
Voting closes at midnight on 10 December. Let’s go for it!
“Why I volunteer” Volunteer Rebecca Green explains how she got involved… “I was unemployed when I saw an article in the Reading Post about the True Food Co-op’s new shop needing volunteers. It fits in with my ethical shopping ethos and I was eager to help out. “I did my first shop shift in June and now work a couple of shifts a week there and have started to help out at the Newtown market. I have made so many friends and it's great for networking. I enjoy seeing the regulars and having a chat as well as helping out newer shoppers. “After only a few weeks I became a paid up member. Now I can vote at members’ meetings I feel even more part of it. “I've never worked in a role that’s given me such job satisfaction. I do put in a lot of hours, but even if you can just do a couple of hours every couple of weeks, it will help TFC immensely.” True Food Co-op is able to offer competitive prices because much of the work involved in running it is carried out by volunteers. Most do just two 90-minute slots a month, to fit in with work and family commitments. We need people to join our friendly team to help out with tasks like: ● ● ● ● ●
customer service and hosting ● setting up and packing away at markets community outreach ● staffing stands at events ● distributing flyers contributing to the weekly emailers ● helping with True Food News marketing and administration ● entertainment planning ● washing aprons cleaning the shop ● delivering bread ● accounting and bookkeeping
If you're interested in getting involved, please contact Beth Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.
M A R K E T U P D AT E Our food buyer, Joanna MacDouall, reports on the latest ups and downs in product prices. Oat prices have risen recently, affecting oat groats, rolled oats, oatmeal and oat bran. This hasn’t yet affected the prices of products made using oats, such as biscuits and flapjacks, but we’re bound to see these rising in the New Year. The long threatened rise in wheat prices has finally begun to bite. All wheat-based Doves Farm flours have gone up in price, as has wheat grain, however spelt and kamut are unaffected. Again, end product prices have yet to rise, but I’m sure they will. Our fresh milk prices are down thanks to a discount we've negotiated with our supplier (not the farmer, whose income remains the same). 500ml of British single estate organic semi-skimmed milk is now only 55p, one litre of semiskimmed or whole milk is 99p, and two-litre bottles of semi-skimmed are just £1.75. Although the milk is only displayed for sale at the shop, we can take it to any market on order. See Chris for details or email email@example.com. Otherwise things are pretty stable. Almonds and brazil nuts are slightly up. Coconut and hazelnuts are slightly down. Raisins and sultanas are up, figs down. Nothing spectacular. Finally, a note on our loose basmati rice. It’s coming from Pakistan at the moment, rather than India. The producers are not registered with the Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO), so we can’t sell it as Fairtrade. However they are paid fairly for the rice they grow, so you can still enjoy it with a clear conscience!
Christmas is coming...
and the turkey’s organic Now the cold weather has arrived, Christmas suddenly seems just round the corner. You’ll soon start to see a tempting range of organic Christmas products appearing at the True Food markets and shop. These will include delicious fruity stollen, Christmas puddings, Christmas cakes and gluten-free mince pies. To keep you cosy on those long winter nights we’ll be stocking Rocks Spiced Fruit Punch and Rochester Mulled Berry Punch as well as boxes of mulling spices and Christmas teas. As usual we’ll be selling organic peeled and cooked chestnuts. These are ideal for creating festive nut roasts and stuffings and the perfect compliment to our organic Brussels sprouts. If you’re planning on cooking an organic bird this Christmas, you’ll be glad to hear that locally raised organic turkeys, ducks and geese will be available to order from the True Food markets and shop. We’re planning to source birds from Laverstoke Park, near Basingstoke, our regular organic meat supplier. To achieve organic certification, poultry farmers must maintain high standards of animal welfare and use only organic feed. This helps to keep the carbon footprint of organic meat production down, as no petrochemical-based fertilisers are used in growing the feed. Buying your Christmas meat from True Food is a great way to support your co-op, and you’ll have a happier Christmas knowing your dinner is locally and sustainably produced as well as delicious. So look out for Christmas order forms at the markets and shop, and place your order soon to avoid being disappointed! We’ll also have some lovely ethical gift ideas in stock, including fancy chocolates, boxes of fudge, pretty candles and Faith in Nature Christmas gift bags. For the young ones we’ll be stocking little wooden boats, traditionally propelled by wound up elastic bands, and octopus stools.
Let us be the first to wish you a very happy Christmas! Page 3
Members' offer price
Pukka Revitalising Tea
Pukka Love Tea
Pukka After Dinner Tea
Clipper Decaffeinated Tea Bags
Clipper Earl Grey Tea Bags
Biona Spelt Cakes
Biona Corn Cakes
Crazy Jack Cracked Black Pepper Crackers
Crazy Jack Sesame Seed Crackers
Crazy Jack Cranberry Butter Biscuits
Crazy Jack Orange Butter Biscuits
Crazy Jack Ginger Butter Biscuits
Biona Wheat Pizza Bases, 2-packs
Bio Planette Olive Oil 500ml
Bio Planette Sunflower Oil
Suma Soups, all flavours
Clearspring 100% Fruit Purees, all varieties
Aspall's Red Wine Vinegar
Aspall's White Wine Vinegar
Yaoh Hemp Moisturisers, all varieties
Faith in Nature Skin Care products
Faith in Nature 3-in-1 Wipes
Faith in Nature Hand Cream
Skin Blossom Moisturising Body Lotion
Special offer price
Amaizin Chilli Corn Rolls Amaizin Tomato Corn Rolls Infinity Vitality Muesli Ecomil Almond Drink, sweetened & plain Ecomil Quinoa Drink Page 3 Spaghetti, white & wholemeal
£1.40 £1.40 £4.42 £2.95 £2.95 £1.20
£1.10 £1.10 £3.65 £1.48 £1.48 £0.88
Special offers for all
“It was lovely to be greeted with hot punch by the stove on such a wet night. The conker competition was epic, and the resident dog was very sweet and well-behaved.” Beth Scott
Conkers flying at the Harvest Blast! Great fun was had by all at the TFC staff and volunteers party at the Rising Sun Arts Centre on Saturday 2 October.
“Delicious chocolate fondue and good music made for a nice evening. Great to be back where it all started for me and True Food five years ago.” Jean-Philippe Drécourt “Fierce competition and sore wrists from the conkers. One competitor even resorted to winding his coat around his wrist so he could carry on!” Mary Tindall
“I enjoyed dancing to I'm the King of the Jungle!” Helen Wright “What an enjoyable evening! A chance to relax with old friends and meet new, like-minded people.” Sharon Lawrey
Anna Batchelor and Chris Aldridge force a rematch at the Newtown market
We are not alone We were excited to hear there’s a new community co-operative working to change the face of the UK’s food retail market. The People’s Supermarket opened in London’s Bloomsbury on 1 June 2010. Like True Food Co-op, The People’s Supermarket is owned and run by its members. By contributing a small amount of time to work at the shop they keep overheads low, giving the local community affordable access to good food. Just like at True Food, membership of The People’s Supermarket is open to all. And the more people get involved, the better it will get, with all profits going back into developing the business. Their website, at www.thepeoplessupermarket.org, includes a fantastic video, which sums up their mission perfectly. We’re keen to help other areas across the UK benefit
Oat cuisine True Food volunteer, ‘Porridge Lady’ Anna Batchelor, is running a series of cookery workshops at the Emmer Green shop over the coming months. The first 'How to... with Porridge Lady' session is all about breakfast. “I‘ll be showing how to make porridge with different oats and how to make muesli,” says Anna, “finishing with a luxury weekend breakfast”. The class will be held on Saturday 20 November, from 9-10am, at the shop in Grove Road. Entry is £3 for members, £5 for non-members, or free for children accompanied by adults. The price includes the breakfast delights you make and tea and coffee. Anna, who is famed for her oat cuisine, won the Speciality category at Page 4
“It was wonderful. I'd never played conkers before and enjoyed the challenge. The food was delicious, punch fabulous and the company great. I think each season should be celebrated like this.” Annette Thompson
“It was an amazing mix of people, food, music and alcohol.” Rebecca Green
from access to fairly priced, healthy and sustainable food. So on 9 September we held an open day for existing and potential food co-ops, to share some of the lessons we’ve learnt over the past six years. Afterwards, Sara Osman of Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, said: “Food accounts for 30% of the UK’s carbon footprint. By selling as much seasonal and local food as possible, True Food helps its customers reduce their carbon footprint and make a more sustainable choice. “By allowing customers to buy as much or as little as they want of many wholefoods,” she added, “they help reduce food waste as people buy only what they need.” The community co-operative model may be an alien concept to many, but it’s a hugely powerful one. Instead of just complaining about the unfair practices of supermarkets, it enables us to make a real difference by doing a better job ourselves!
last year’s Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championships, and some of her recipes are featured in the Mornflake 7-day healthy eating plan.
Christmas opening times Last market before Christmas Thursday 23 December, Newtown
First market after Christmas Tuesday 4 January, Downshire Square
The shop in Emmer Green will be open over the Christmas period on: Friday 24 December – 8.30am-1pm Wednesday 29 December – 10am-4pm Thursday 30 December – 10am-4pm Friday 31 December – 10am-4pm
The shop reopens as normal from Tuesday 4 January.
Market and shop opening times All Saints Hall, Downshire Square Tuesday – 5-8.15pm
Wesley Methodist Hall, Queen's Road Wednesday – 5-8.15pm
The Warehouse, Cumberland Road, Newtown 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