What is a co-op? A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled business.
There are four primary types of cooperatives: producer, worker, consumer, and marketing/shared services co-ops. The type of co-op indicates who owns and, therefore, democratically controls the business.
New Orleans Food Co-op, like most cooperatively owned food stores in the U.S., is organized as a consumer co-op, meaning that the people who purchase goods and services from the co-ops, own the co-ops. Consumers govern these co-ops through an owner-elected Board of Directors that is ultimately responsible for the co-op’s affairs.
Values: Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
NOFC commits deeply to the 7 Cooperative Principles that guide cooperatives around the world. The International Cooperative Alliance founded these principles based upon over a hundred years of written co-op history. Click here to view the International Statement of Cooperative Identity and Principles. The following is our interpretation of these principles and some examples of how we live them:
1: Voluntary and Open Membership
NOFC is a voluntary, non-discriminatory organization. Member-Ownership is open to everyone who wants to use NOFC’s services and who is willing to accept the responsibilities of member-ownership. NOFC is actively engaged in cultivating an inclusive co-op that is committed to the principles and analysis of social justice.
2: Democratic Member Control
NOFC is a democratic business. As a consumer co-op, NOFC is controlled by our Member-Owners according to the one owner = one share = one vote guideline. Owners vote on bylaw changes when needed and elect Member-Owners to serve on the Board of Directors and govern the co-op on their behalf.
3: Member Economic Participation
Member-Owners contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of NOFC through their investment in a Member-Share. When the co-op makes a profit, the Board of Directors determines how that profit will be allocated and dispersed. Profit may be used for developing and reinvesting in NOFC, building our financial reserves, and/or distributing a portion back to Member-Owners in proportion to their use of the co-op via a patronage refund.
4: Autonomy and Independence
NOFC is an autonomous organization controlled by our Member-Owners. We won’t be bought!
5: Education, Training and Information
NOFC provides education and training for our Member-Owners, our Board Members, Management, and Employees so they can contribute effectively to co-op development. We also educate the general public – including youth – about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
6: Cooperation Among Cooperatives
We serve our members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures. NOFC is a members of a variety of cooperative organizations; we also network with every co-op that we know of in Louisiana!
7: Concern for Community
While focusing on Member-Owner needs, NOFC works to support the sustainable development of our community. When possible, we partner with local community organizations where our mission statements align.