How to run a food co-op or bulk buying group

Turnstyle Bulk Buyers Introduction

Welcome to the Turnstyle Bulk Buyers Group!

Thanks for coming along and joining the co-op. This email contains information about the co-op, how it works, member responsibilities and how to get started ie. what next???

Turnstyle Bulk Buyers: What is it?
The organic buyers group has been operating from under Turnstyle Community Hub since February 2011; and is presently comprised of about 100+ members, each combining their purchasing power to buy, swap and share local, ethically produced food and household goods.

The group primarily sources food and other household products from producers located within a 3 hour radius of Brisbane. This has been made possible with the help of Food Connect as well as a number of producers we have managed to meet on our journey thus far.

The initiative itself was created with the mandate of providing local, ethically sourced goods at an affordable price. By shortening our supply chain and relying on volunteerism, the group manages to keep the prices very close to cost, thus avoiding the premiums that can often make the most ethical, nutritious and environmentally sound food unaffordable to many people in our society. Further, we are able to ensure that the producers receive a fair price for their hard work.

How does it all work?
Each Wednesday evening, this group meets at 10 Laura Street, Highgate Hill. Each co-op member selects the food they want to purchase from the food available on the night and queues up at one of four weighing/pricing stations. Your food is then weighed by a volunteer who enters the details of your purchase into the co-op’s system. Once all members have chosen food, a call out is made to see if members can buy any of the leftover food that is not able to be preserved by our preservation working group. Your itemised receipt for the evening’s purchase is then emailed to you later that evening. At this point, it is up to you to pay the total owing to the co-op’s account via an internet banking transfer. The co-op's bank account details are at the bottom of all invoices and newsletters you receive by email.

Members are also able to pre-order ‘extras’ offered through Food Connect (e.g. coffee, milk etc) . Often there are home-made or home-grown foods to buy from the members themselves. There are also eggs, dry goods (grains, nuts, legumes, etc.), preserved foods and some household goods (detergent, laundry liquid).

Beyond the access to all this wonderful produce you will also have access to the collective minds of like-minded individuals who share concerns regarding the current state of the national food systems. The group is also starting to create further initiatives surrounding other issues as well; running workshops on topics such as preservation, fermentation and the like. This will ensure that these skills are not lost and you can get the most out of your food.

What is required from the members?
There are two main things we ask of our members.

1. The first is that you attend on a regular basis, and in the event of unavoidable absence, give enough notice to those that arrange the ordering of the following week’s food. This allows orders to be placed that are suitable for the expectant number of buyers, and limits the potential for waste. Alternatively, you arrange for a friend from the group to buy on your behalf.

2. Every member is required to volunteer in some capacity. As the group is based on a co-operative model, this helps it run smoothly. There are many volunteer tasks available that hopefully suit different lifestyles and commitments. (Some jobs require less than an hour per month). At present there are eight working groups that make up the Turnstyle Bulk Buyers volunteer base. These include hospitality (looking after the new folk), stock (make sure we have everything our group needs), finance ($$$), communications (emails, meetings etc), preservation (making sure we don’t waste our valuable food), team D.A.T.A (our IT crew), visions (liaison and long term issues), and on-the-night (looking after the group on buying night). Be sure to talk to someone in the hospitality working group or the corner the Volunteer Coordinator on the night to chat about what skills you have where you feel you might be best suited.

So who can be a member?
Membership is open to all; whether they be individuals, households or small groups. A membership to the group requires a $50 fully refundable deposit.The deposits ensure there is always enough money to pay for the next week's produce and bulk purchases. The co-op bank account details are in the footer of all emails you receive from the co-op including the weekly newsletter. You have a month to pay the deposit.

So when does all this occur again?
The group meets at 6:30 pm every Wednesday at Turnstyle Community Hub at 10 Laura St Highgate Hill. Regular member meetings happen on the first Wednesday of every month from 6-7pm. On these nights the buying does start a little later (just after 7pm). We do encourage all members to attend these meetings so as to have your thoughts and voices heard.

A note about surcharge
You will notice a surcharge on your weekly invoice. This surcharge is calculated every time you purchase at the co-op. The purpose of the surcharge is to financially ‘buffer’ the co-op so we always have money to purchase the next week’s order. We also make a donation to Turnstyle Community Hub for letting us use the space every week. The surcharge we charge ourselves is calculated based on the total amount spent by each member at the scales for a particular buying night as follows:

• If less than $5, surcharge is $1
• If less than $10, surcharge is 20% of total amount spent
• If less than $30, surcharge is $2 + 10% of (total amount spent minus $10)
• For total over $30, surcharge is $4

Therefore, although the exact amount depends on what you spend at the scales on a particular buying night, you can rely on your surcharge always being a figure between $1 and $4. Of course, like every policy and practice at our co-op, this is up for review and reform at any time you, as a contributing co-op member, wish to raise it as such.

Hope this all sounds interesting and you feel as though this can work for you. Any further questions don’t hesitate to contact us on

Take care
Turnstyle Bulk Buyers

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