Before formal registration in December 2004, what is now the True Food Community Co-operative Limited was a very informal local group - the True Food Club - TFC for short.
The first meeting of the True Food Club, in July 1999, wasn't even a food sales meeting. Local people interested in sourcing good, affordable organic wholefoods for their own use met in Reading to discuss the possibility of filling the gap left by the closure of wholefood shops in the town.
Within a couple of years, this increasingly popular club was meeting fortnightly instead of just once a month, and stocking a wide selection of organic wholefoods instead of just buying what club members would jointly order and take home.
Need for inward investment came about following the sad death of Peggy Ellis, a passionate believer in self-sufficiency and an active supporter of the TFC through her own resources. A new home for club stocks was found at the Rising Sun Arts Centre in Reading, and through generous investment and donations from club members and non-members alike, fresh stocks and equipment were acquired.
With great help from the Reading Community Enterprise Agency (RCEA, now Social Enterprise Berkshire), Berkshire Community Foundation, the Reading Primary Care Trust and Reading Volunteer Action organisations, True Food Club ran a pilot project idea called True Food Futures - Go Mobile - taking organic food sales to nearer where local people live. In the Summer of 2004, a trial of holding food sales at four community venues in distinct areas of Reading was successfully completed.
The pilot project, funded by grants from the European Social Fund, showed that there was a big demand all around Reading for local sales of affordable organic foods at venues close to where people lived. A business plan taking the findings from the trial and information from previous TFC sales trends also showed that the Go Mobile project could be self-financing within a year of full-scale start up.
Further grants were applied for, including one to pay for formal registration of the club as a Community Co-operative - an Industrial & Provident Society. The TFC was granted formal registration on the 15th of December 2004 by the Financial Services Authority (FSA); and so it began.
Where are we today?
TFC operates a hybrid system of a large shop and multiple mobile markets held in community centres. The shop is the hub that provides the infrastructure for bulk purchasing and retailing of large quantities of foods. The mobile markets help spread accessibility and convenience of TFC across a greater area than could be achieved with the shop alone.
At its most basic level True Food Co-op is a large-scale buying group. By shopping at TFC we are pooling our grocery budget, by regularly giving a little of our time we are pooling our human resources. The combined result benefits us with good access to good food at a price we can afford.