The supermarket that fights for food sovereignty in Barcelona

The Aragó passage stands as an oasis of tranquility in contrast to the hustle and bustle that characterizes the rest of the Eixample district.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
12 May 2024 Sunday 17:20
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The supermarket that fights for food sovereignty in Barcelona

The Aragó passage stands as an oasis of tranquility in contrast to the hustle and bustle that characterizes the rest of the Eixample district. It is for this reason that a group of partners decided to establish Food Coop there, the first (and so far only) cooperative supermarket in Barcelona. The idea of ​​associating in order to be self-sufficient is not new and this type of supermarket has existed for decades in other capitals around the world. However, not many Barcelonans know of its existence in the city. “We are non-profit, we try to bring higher quality products at an affordable price and support local producers,” explains Rosa Rovira, one of the partners of Food Coop.

The project in Barcelona arose from the Park Slope supermarket, in Brooklyn, New York, which opened its doors in 1973. It works basically in the same way: members pay an initial fee to enter (in Barcelona it is 10 euros), access to higher quality products at a lower price and, in exchange, they collaborate with the operation of the store three hours a month. “They are simple tasks, like replenishing products or working at the checkout.” This system allows you to reduce operating costs and thus achieve more affordable prices. The main difference between Food Coop and its North American predecessor is that joining is not a mandatory requirement. Anyone can come in to buy. But only members have access to the special reduced prices and can participate in the committees that choose which products are on the shelves.

At first glance it looks like a common supermarket, “but if you look at the details, everything is different,” says Rovira. The presence of plastic packaging is practically non-existent. The vast majority of products are offered in bulk. There is a community corner, with a table and a small library. Members leave books and even recipes to share with others. “The idea behind this collaboration is not only to contribute labor, but also to foster a sense of community among the partners.”

At Food Coop you can get almost all the essential products that are sold in a regular supermarket, but with some exceptions. Fruits and vegetables are only local and seasonal. They also sell meat, although it is not displayed on the shelves. “We sell it to order, it is very delicate and generates a lot of waste.” One of the objectives of the cooperative is to try not to throw anything away. “When something is not so fresh we offer it at a discount and if no one buys it, we have someone who takes it and turns it into compost.”

One of the main objectives when the cooperative was created was to be able to support local producers who meet quality environmental requirements that are not required in other parts of the world. “The survival of our farmers is threatened by global competition that “It exerts strong pressure on prices – explains Esther, a partner since the beginning of the project – our local producers are not subject to the same standards as imported products.”

The Park Slope supermarket in Brooklyn today has more than 17,000 members. La Louve, opened in Paris in 2016, has about 6,000. In Spain, there are ten cooperative supermarkets. One of the largest is La Osa, located in Madrid, and has around 1,500 members.

Since its opening in 2022, Food Coop has managed to gather 600 members and is slowly looking to grow more and more. The cooperative already has home deliveries by bicycle, thanks to a collaboration with the responsible delivery company Mensakas, and, shortly, they will launch an online store.