The concept of buying clubs began in 1965 when a small group of housewives in Japan joined together to purchase pesticide-free produce to reduce overall cost. Declaring "autonomous control of our lives," the group has since grown to 230,000 households. Operating under the name Seikatsu Club, the organization focuses on environmentally sound food and products. Little did the housewives know back in 1965, they were starting a revolution of purchasing power that would spread across Japan and the world.
Safe and healthy food for all
Buying clubs have begun to sprout up in many American lower-income neighborhoods too. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is one example -- connecting urban dwellers with outstanding, seasonal produce at affordable prices. Club members enjoy safe, nutrient dense food while learning about new vegetables and the cycle of the seasons. Farmers are influenced positively as well, adapting their offerings with the help of feedback from subscribers. Growers like Mike and Cheryl Rogowski of Warwick, New York began cultivating more cilantro, peppers and beets after their Hispanic buying clubs expressed an interest.
Buying clubs USA
The United States currently has more than 4,000 buying clubs nationwide. Unlike most co-ops, these organizations do not have a store front and are usually operated out of the home or a small office.
Here's how it works. Each local warehouse supplies a catalogue or website page every month with item lists and prices. Members place their orders via phone, fax, email or online form. A designated club member then picks up the entire order for the group, pays with a single check and distributes the goods from a central location to the other subscribers. Wholesaler's usually require a minimum group order -- as much as $750 each month. When forming a club, Jeff Guntzel and Soyun Kim of Punk Planet recommend seven to ten members to keep the club manageable while still meeting the wholesale minimum.
By joining a buying club, you can cut down on costs, vote with your fork and enjoy high-quality food without the hefty price tag. Guntzel and Kim enthusiastically believe food buying clubs are nothing short of revolutionary. "You are encouraging cooperative action," they observe, "withdrawing your hard-earned money from corporations and chain stores, supporting organic farmers and other cooperatives, taking a little load off the earth by purchasing pesticide-free foods with less packaging marketed by socially responsible and environmentally conscious companies, and saving money!"
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