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Message from our Chair

Posted on Saturday 11 July 2020

I would like say how privileged I felt to be your Chair last year while we were celebrating the 20th anniversary of True Food. They weren’t massive celebrations, but they were fun; and they helped us realise what a valuable thing those first True Food members did when they started our wonderful co-op 20 years ago.

2019 was a challenging year for us but thanks to the efforts of members and the work of my excellent colleagues on the committee, it was also a successful year. So much has happened since 2019 that it would be strange for me to simply comment on last year. Indeed, the word ‘strange’ has been used a great deal to describe the effect of Covid 19 on our life these last few months. So many of our routines and expectations have been turned upside down. However, for True Food, what has felt most strange is that as a food store, we have done very well. Why that is we don’t really know, but I think we can safely point to 3 possible reasons:

1. In normal times 50% of the food eaten in Britain is consumed outside the home; in restaurants, canteens, or on the street. With lockdown this has changed as we have all had to cook and eat at home. This has given food retail shops a boost in sales.

2. When people were asked not to use their car, many moved from the large supermarkets, preferring instead to shop around the corner. I’m sure True Food has benefitted from that.

3. People have noticed that eating healthy food can be beneficial to their well-being, which may lessen the chances of catching a virus and/or improve their recovery if they do. So, people are turning to organic food to protect their health.

This gives us useful criteria to use in planning for the future. As we’ve now reached the end of our 5-year Business Plan we need to refocus. If there’s one word that the plan should emphasise, that word is ‘Opportunity’. With a firm financial footing and an excellent trading outlook, we now have the opportunity to do some of the things we have often talked about. Some of those things should improve the efficiency of the shop. However, I believe it’s also time to think beyond the shop. Our mission commits us to making organic food available to everyone in Reading at prices most people can afford. Being a co-operative of nearly 100 members gives us the resources to do that. So the challenge for this year is to look at the various initiatives we could take, and identify those that we wish to pursue. It’s worth noting at this point that there are a number of organisations in Reading that share our values and have similar aims, so forming partnerships may be one way of achieving some of our goals. I hope that our members will feel able to contribute to our plans for the next 5 years, both with their ideas and, of course, with their time and expertise.

Francis Jakeman

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