Of the variety of alternative grocery stores that offer natural, organic, local, and health foods in the United States, food co-ops are one of the more unique business models for alternative foods. Unlike traditional retailers, they are collectively owned and democratically operated. Prices tend to be higher in co-ops because they carry high-quality foods that are generally fresh, locally sourced, or artisanal in nature. What motivates people to join co-ops and spend more money for their membership and foods compared to other stores? This article provides ethnographic and interview data with member-owners at a relatively new co-op in South Bend, Indiana. Eighteen students enrolled in an Undergraduate Qualitative Research Methods class in the spring semester of 2017 spent two months as participant observers at a co-op and collaboratively conducted 45 semistructured interviews with its member-owners. Several noneconomic issues factored prominently in the member-owners’ decisions to invest in the co-op. The majority viewed their decision to join the co-op and shop there out of a sense of responsibility for the economy and environment in their region, and to participate in and strengthen the community.
"“Putting Money Where My Mouth Is”: Motivations and Experiences among Food Co-op Members,"
Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences: Vol. 21
, Article 46.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.butler.edu/jiass/vol21/iss1/46