Community buying groups are recreating the future of food

Food Clubs in South Africa hold much promise for a preferred food future.

There is a lot wrong with our modern food systems.

While big business has made the food we eat cheaper and more accessible than ever before, it has at the same time also distanced us from the very essence of what makes food such a deeply-human experience.

We have traded our souls for convenience - and over the past few decades the collective push-back to regain our food sanity has been fierce.

An encouraging development - that we were not aware of until it was shared with us last week - is the rise of the Food Club movement in South Africa.

Food Clubs are essentially "community buying groups". The idea is to decentralise our food system and create a market for food that is farmed/produced using sustainable practices, regenerative agriculture in particular, thereby voting with our wallets for food that is good for our health, the environment and local society. The result is food that is nutritionally dense, with less waste and packaging, and that does not poison our eco-systems.

The win-win of the model

In the supermarket model, farmers might receive 37.3% of retail prices, versus the 75-85% when supplying local food clubs. In Food Clubs suppliers are King - they set their own prices, get a fair wage and prompt payment, allowing them to continue their good and important work.

How it works for members of a Food Club:

The Club is made up of members who order once/twice a month via the Club’s website – from meat and fresh produce to cleaning products and dry goods. Orders are collated and placed by the Club Host, who handles all the logistics and administration. Members collect their order a week later at the Club’s “Market Day” and make a single payment to the Host. Ie food is harvested/produced to order - meaning less waste.

As a society we are a long, long way away from creating a more sustainable modern food system, but there are working solutions like the Food Club movement, which shows a lot of promise.

Give it a go yourself, or if you are already a member, please share your experience with us in the comments.

Food Clubs registered in the Cape Town region:

The take-out

Food and where our food comes from, is a subject matter which goes to the heart what it means to life a good life. Food-related innovations that just focus on the functional aspect of access or environmental-sustainability alone, miss the point. What, where and how we eat is as much about culture, community and spirituality as it is about nutrition. Business largely has zero-awareness of the latter, which opens a very wide gap for innovations like Food Clubs to offer urban-communities closer bonds with their more rural brethren; giving disconnected communities new opportunities to forge ties that, till now, have been monopolised by big supermarkets. For now, Food Clubs are still very much a niche alternative to the massive existing food industrial complex, but one that holds much promise for a preferred food future.

Many thanks to Courtney Atkinson - who manages the Constantia Food Club - and Jessica Merton - Founder of Food Club Hub - for sharing this information with us.

Previously on Cherryflava:

Disrupting the supermarket
Why there aren’t more of these in South Africa, is a mystery.
Fish With A Story - connecting fishing communities with markets
Fish With A Story offers vacuum-packed and blast-frozen, for guaranteed freshness, fish on their app - sourced from small-scale fishers.
Lalunga Seafoods offers sustainably-caught Cape wild fish
The future of the local fishing industry hangs in the balance. Big commercial fishing methods have severely depleted fish and shellfish populations to the point of international concern, so understandably consumers of seafood products are increasingly looking for alternatives that are less harmful…