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White City Food Co-op (Buywell)


In phase 1, the White City Co-op offered healthy produce to local residents and was run from Phoenix High School. It was managed in partnership by Phoenix High School Farm and Learning Zone and Staying Put Services. The co-op sold a range of fruit and vegetables, part of which was supplied from the farm at the school, while the co-op itself was run by local volunteers.

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  • improve the availability of fresh, healthy and sustainable food to the residents of White City SOA via a community food co-op run by volunteers
  • inspire, enable and motivate the community to eat more healthily
  • engage the residents of the White City SOA to use and benefit from the co-op

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White City is one of the six most deprived areas in the country, but is an area of untapped potential, with a community that lacks the aspiration to develop their own skills and resources to achieve mental wellbeing. Residents living within the area tend to keep to themselves rather than socialising with other members of the community.

There are very few fruit and vegetable shops supplying fresh produce to local residents. In the Well London initial programme research, healthy eating emerged as a major theme. Easy access to healthy foods is seen as a problem, combined with lack of diet literacy. Projects around this theme were seen as a possible way to cement inter-cultural community cohesion.

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A needs assessment was carried out at a community event at Phoenix Schools Farm and Learning Zone to find out what local people wanted (opening times, types of food sold, etc.).

A steering group was set up for the food co-op, made up of:

  • Garry McMillan (Facilities and Development Manager, Phoenix High School)
  • Marcia Clack (Family Learning Coordinator, responsible for policies and procedures)
  • Naami Padi (Community Nutritionist, responsible for volunteer recruitment, community participation and promotion)
  • Graham Raine (Director Staying Put Services, responsible for promotion, healthy eating and volunteer training)
  • Samila Kahn (Lead Volunteer) and Jason Harrigan (Metropolitan Policy Community Liaison Team); both responsible for purchasing

The project team visited several other food co-ops in the East London area to gather ideas and inspiration and to pick up knowledge from successful projects. It was then partnered with East London Food Access, who mentored the project for the first three months.

The food co-op was launched at a school event and over 200 residents signed up as members. It was then re-launched on Friday 5th February 2010 to try to increase numbers of visitors to the project. This involved leaflet distribution, healthy eating recipe cards, healthy eating tasters such as soups and stir fries and the introduction of bulk buying options. A bag scheme was also launched for elderly and vulnerable members of the community, working on a pre-order, pre-pay system.

The food co-op stall is run from Phoenix High School, which has a ¾-acre Farm and Learning Zone within its grounds. The school was already working with a dietician from Staying Put Services and there were already lots of activities related to growing fruit and vegetables on the school farm grounds.

One of the main challenges has been to ensure a good supply of affordable produce as it is difficult to compete with offers in local supermarkets. Customers were also expecting all the produce to come directly from the farm at the school, but it simply isnt possible to produce enough to supply the co-op. A period of unavoidable price increases meant the co-op lost some of its regular customers and it has been challenging to achieve the right balance between quality and price.

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There are now between 40 and 45 people regularly using the co-op on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Volunteers have been recruited from the local community and support the Food Co-op each week. To date, 14 volunteers have been trained in cash handling and book-keeping.

Volunteer recruitment was difficult in the beginning as people did not know what a food co-op was, but there are now four regular volunteers and help is provided by Hammersmith & Fulham volunteer centre and local community groups. Health trainers are now also involved, all of whom work with the co-ops partner, Staying Put Services.

Three volunteers have gone on to get jobs as a result of working with the food co-op. It is hoped that the co-op will continue after funding runs out. Phoenix High School is very supportive of the co-op and has expressed a desire to continue with the project.

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An end of project survey will be completed after December 2010 to evaluate the impacts of the project.

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  • Good suppliers that can offer competitive prices are crucial.
  • Food tastings and recipes always prove popular with customers.
  • Support your volunteers with references, trips out, etc.

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