With soaring costs, healthy eating can come at a high price. Food Co-Operatives offer one solution to ensure that people can buy good quality without breaking the bank. Experts have long advocated that we should be eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day (excluding potatoes and other starchy tubers) for the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity, as well as for the prevention and alleviation of several micronutrient deficiencies, especially in less developed countries. With 1.7 million (2.8%) of deaths worldwide attributed to low fruit and vegetable consumption1 there has been much emphasis on ensuring that we consume the recommended amounts. Incorporating five portions of fruit and vegetables into our day seems like a relatively easy way to stay healthy; however for many it can be a hard task to eat just one portion. Depending on where you live and your economic circumstance, maintaining a healthy diet can either be expensive or incredibly difficult. Despite the growth of supermarkets, there are still many areas where people simply can't buy healthy and sustainable due to inflated prices, poor transport links, limited shops and/or a general lack of choice. Social disadvantage still remains one of the key barriers to health throughout the world. Whilst there is no doubt that supermarkets have made access to fruit and vegetables easier and in the most part cheaper, it still remains that cost is the biggest turn off for consumers when it comes to buying fruit and vegetables. The retail price of fresh produce has increased by 7.9% in the 12 months to December 2010 and the price of vegetables is up 2.9%.2 Today, the average bill is 6.2% higher than it was in 2010. Young people under 25 years have said that they have had to cut back on buying fruit and vegetables in an attempt to lower their bill and those earning less than £15,500 a year have also started to eat less fresh produce because of the expense.2 Today, the average family spends just £4 on fresh produce a week. Feeling priced out, communities are now cutting out the middle man and buying direct from suppliers. Food co-operatives have, for some time, provided the solution to hefty bills. Through offering people the chance to buy fruit and vegetables and other fresh produce at cost price, co-operatives help ensure an affordable supply. In rural areas in particular, where transport is often limited, this new way of buying has improved nutrition and offset the problem of poor availability. The Marmot Review states that: food systems provide direct health benefits through the nutritional quality of the supply.4 In order to make improvements to the environment, issues such as the accessibility and affordability of as well as how sustainably it is produced, processed and delivered, need to be addressed.4 Food co-operatives help to address all of these issues and are going a long way to address the issue of health equality. By giving control of the supply back to the consumer a healthy diet is both easily achievable and affordable. According to WHO, Communities and neighbourhoods that ensure access to basic goods, that are socially cohesive, that are designed to promote good physical and psychological wellbeing, and that are protective of the natural environment are essential for health equity.3 Food co-operatives are run by the community, for the community. The idea being that if enough people can group together and buy in bulk from suppliers, a group of people can buy quality at affordable prices. The scheme can work in two ways: by collecting orders from people in advance, or by ordering from suppliers and then selling the produce via stalls, bag or box schemes, mobile stores etc. Whilst the basic principle of co-operatives remains the same, different communities each take their own approach depending on the needs of the people. …

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