This workers’ co-operative connects local growers with businesses in the fightback against food poverty.
In February 2019, the doors opened on the Larder Café in Preston city centre, a co-operative which promotes healthy, local and seasonal food.
Five years earlier Kay Johnson, a trained chef and nutritionist, worked with food experts in Lancashire to look at how communities could achieve greater food related sustainability. She held a series of consultations across the county which resulted in the development and launch of the Lancashire Sustainable Food Charter. Johnson went on to develop the vision of establishing a food hub in Preston to bring together the interrelated aspects of the food agenda: provision of quality local food at affordable prices, training and education, and delivering food related services to the community.
The Larder (which stands for Lancashire and Region Dietary Education Resource) is a social enterprise which provides accredited catering and hospitality courses, and works with a local housing association and other partners to provide bespoke cooking classes.
The Larder Café opening coincided with the early stages of the City Council’s Co-operative Development Network, an integral part of the “Preston Model”. Preston has since become known across the country for its pioneering strategy to boost the city’s economy by keeping money contained and circulating in the local area.
Kay Johnson said “we are trying to create a situation where people, regardless of income, have access to good food and information about where it comes from. ‘Food fairness for all’ is at the heart of everything we do: at the cafe we pay a fair price for the food we source, we set a fair price for our customers and make sure that the staff are remunerated fairly too. Cost shouldn’t be a barrier to having a healthy diet so we also run regular activities including pay-as-you-feel events so that people with little or no money can enjoy tasty healthy meals cooked by our wonderful volunteers”
New rules needed
Policies that can help unleash the potential of this or similar initiatives across the UK.
Introduce a Co-operative Economy Act
A legal framework tailored to the needs of co-operatives and supportive of their future development.
Start inclusive ownership funds
An economic heartbeat that transfers the ownership and control of businesses to workers and other key stakeholders.
Promote community wealth building
Support co-ops to thrive in their localities by anchoring them within place-based industrial and community wealth building strategies.
Create affordable workspaces
Affordable workspaces are essential to the survival of independent businesses.
Create new sources of finance for co-ops
Create financial instruments and institutions tailored to the needs of the co-operative economy.
Introduce a maximum pay ratio
Executive pay has become divorced from reality. A pay ratio will spread wealth and reduce inequality.
Implement an employee right to own
Co-operatise existing businesses to accelerate new models of ownership and increase the volume of the co-operative sector in the UK.
Create devolved ‘just transition’ funds
Government should devolve a proportion of its Green New Deal budget to support local just transition plans.
Launch a Co-operative Development Agency
A network of support and capacity building to develop and extend the capabilities of the co-operative movement.