MINUTES! Green Action Food Co-op: Review of Products, 21/11/2010

Date – 21/11/2010

Who present – Sarah, Alice, Neil, Giulia, Tim, Rita, Pia, Charlotte, Becky, Sam

Facilitator – none

Minute taker – Sarah

Aim of meeting – to discuss ethical and environmental issues surrounding the products we stock in the food co-op and decide on any appropriate changes to the way we choose what to stock

Summary of what was discussed:

  1.        Items to no longer stock
  2.        Communication with other food co-ops
  3.        Food miles
  4.        Hierarchy of criteria taken into account when ordering
  5.        Out of date stock
  6.        Toilet roll

RED: Changes/action point


1.       Decided to start by discussing specific products we no longer want to stock

·         Tinned items – issues of carbon intensive processing

                                                               i.      Ingredients: yes (e.g. tinned tomatoes, braised tofu)

                                                             ii.      Ready made products: no (e.g. baked beans)

·         Banana chips – can only guarantee to be vegan if bought in individual packets. Agreed to no longer stock item due to excessive packaging this creates but still available for personal ordering.

·         Mushroom paste – how to recycle packaging? Heavily processed item. Led to discussion of processed food; if we get rid of all processed items this could drive people to buy these products in other places e.g. supermarkets, going against our ethos of providing an alternative way of shopping. Also many of these processed items are speciality vegan items which are hard to find/expensive elsewhere. Decided to keep.

2.       Should we talk to other food co-ops to see how they’ve dealt with the issues we’re discussing for inspiration? No, need to decide these things ourselves.

3.       Moved onto issue of ‘food miles’ – environmental costs of transporting items across long distances.

·         Cannot limit to Europe, many products we stock come from further afield (example: Palestinian Oil – want to support this for political reasons).

·         Food hub asked if they look at where products come from. Response: generally yes but not all the time and other factors including packaging, price, Fairtrade, packaging and organic play a part in decision making.

·         ACTION: Start to write the food miles as well as the origins of each product on their labels to encourage people to think about food miles. These will be calculated in advance using GoogleMaps for each country and a reference sheet will be made for how far each country is from Leeds (approximately). This will be kept in the co-op for people to refer to when writing labels. Also Tim has volunteered to create an educational poster about the issue to display in the co-op (addressing the educational role of Green Action).

4.       Debate: Do we have a hierarchy of criteria for choosing products to stock?

·         Criteria: price, Fairtrade, organic, packaging, food miles

                                                               i.      Organic: in the past the rule has been if an organic item is 2.5x the price of a none-organic item, do not buy it. What about ‘luxury’ items such as dried cranberries? Decision: if luxury, do buy organic even if 2.5x more expensive. Reinforcement of the idea to try to stock as much organic produce as possible. ACTION: make sure that all the unprocessed food we buy is organic until end of the year and then review to see if we have had to eliminate any products through this criterion.

                                                             ii.      Rough hierarchy:

1.       Packaging (i.e. buy thinks in bulk where possible)

2.       Fairtrade/Organic (food hub to decide in the rare occasion a choice has to be made – nearly all items that are Fairtrade are also Organic, however many items that are Organic are not Fairtrade)

3.       Food Miles

4.       Price

                                                            iii.      Tim raised the point that our suppliers (Lembas) only buy from ethically-sound companies anyway so we need to trust them that all our products are in some way ethically sourced even if they do not fit all the above criteria.

                                                           iv.      The food hub is to do the best with the information they can find. If anything they are uncertain about comes up as an issue when ordering raise it at the next food co-op meeting.

5.       Out of date stock: 10% off for a month then afterwards up for donation. Write BB dates on labels.

6.       Toilet roll: stop buying in individual packets and start buying in bulk. Can store extra in the cage space Kay has found for us near The Common Room.


Leave a Reply