Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The People's Food Coop in Ann Arbor

We’re always curious about how other food coops work. One of our committee members recently visited the People’s Food Coop in
Ann Arbor, Michigan and took some photos.
Established in 1971, the People’s Food Coop (PFC) is almost as old as our own PSFC. The idea for the co-op actually began as a graduate student project. Two students started a buying club as a way for low-income people to get fresh, healthy food. They brought food from the Eastern Market in Detroit and divided it into bags costing $5/week. In 1975 a second PFC location opened, followed by the opening of Wildflour Baking Collective, People’s Produce Co-op, and the Ann Arbor Tofu Collective in 1976, and the People’s Herb and Spice Co-op in summer of 1978, all on the same block. Later these various factions consolidated and grew to an over 6,500 member co-op.

We were especially interested in how the PFC handled bulk items, as that is the most ecological and economical way to sell food. The PFC has a system which allows members to bring their own containers for food to avoid using disposable plastic bags. Since weighing your items in a container adds to the weight, and therefore the cost of the item, the PFC has a Tare weight system which allows you to deduct from the price based on weight. The following pictures shows how they do it:

No worries if you forget to bring your own container—the PFC sells reusable containers in standard sizes:
And there are many options to fill your reusable containers—
for instance, spices:
What else can you buy in bulk there? So many things. . .
This machine (below) lets you make your own peanut butter and pour it into your reusable container:
Honey and maple syrup can be purchased in bulk:
And olive oil and soy sauce:
Maybe our own coop can use some of these ideas to increase our bulk purchasing options!

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