Wawelska Food Cooperative

Modern food systems offer consumers huge amounts of homogeneous food. Particular food products have to cover long distances before they arrive at their final destinations. The “distance” here can be considered not only in geographical terms, but also in its sociological and economic dimensions. Most products in supermarkets are highly processed. They come through the hands of many processors and intermediaries. We can say that the food’s road from farm to fork is very long. This way of running the food system has some advantages as the majority of people in developed countries have constant access to reliable and affordable food thanks to it. However, this kind of food provisioning also has considerable disadvantages and perceiving them was a starting point of organisations such as Wawelska Food Cooperative.

Wawelska Food Cooperative was started in Krakow, Poland by a group of people who care about what they eat. They believe that leaving food provisioning to big corporations makes us lose control of that process. Members of the Food Cooperative want to buy organic food that is produced with respect to nature. They prefer products delivered by farmers who cultivate the land using traditional techniques and minimise the use of the chemical fertilizers. Co-operative members want to obtain food from local suppliers to reduce the carbon footprint of its transportation. Another important factor for them is the payment. They support local farmers producing organic food by buying products directly from them. Thanks to the Food Co-operative they do not have to pay the intermediaries who usually intercept a considerable portion of the profits from farmers.

Being a member of Wawelska Food Cooperative makes it possible to obtain high-quality organic food directly from farmers at a lower price than the supermarkets offer. The Cooperative signs contracts with farmers and then distributes their products to its members. But Food Cooperative is not only about common purchasing as its social impact. Members of Wawelska Food Cooperative are obliged to share the unpaid work needed to order, transport, store and distribute products. They organise many social events and educational initiatives connected with visits to local farms. Such events help members to build close relationships with each other and with farmers. The Food Cooperative really cares about its contractors. For example, its members organised support for a farmer who lost his harvest because of drought. This couldn’t happen if they bought products in the supermarket which were delivered there by a third party from an anonymous farmer.

In Europe, as well as in other parts of the world, many citizen-driven organisations similar to the Wawelska Food Cooperative are emerging. In the FOOdIVERSE project we are examining these kinds of initiatives, as they help to diversify the food system on many levels. They promote the diversifying of farming techniques and species that are cultivated or bred. They create short food supply chains and market niches in which small producers can find their place. Food cooperatives also help to diversify diets by enabling more people to access high quality food.

The project was co-financed by the NCBR, BMEL, MIPAAF, RCN and DEFRA within the framework of ERA-NET SUSFOOD and ERA-NET CORE Organic Cofund Joint Call program