We are not big fans of supermarkets, despite the fact that they are convenient and often cheaper than shopping locally, we prefer to shop small and local if possible. We are increasingly depressed by the impact big multi national chains have on our local high streets, the way we shop and the heritage of our products.
For us, food shopping is all about provenance. We want to know where our food has come from, the environmental impact, it must be good quality and ideally we would like to have some kind of interaction with the seller.
Shopping locally and ethically is difficult if you are working, have a family and don't have unlimited funds. It requires time, to source the ingredients and to cook meals from scratch.
Chef Arthur Potts Dawson believes that supermarkets have had their day and is embarking on a new project that he hopes will change the way we buy our food. He thinks food co-ops are the future and are the way to sustain communities and encourage local food networks.
The Peoples Supermarket in Lambs Conduit St in London opened recently and is modeled on the already well established Park Slope Cop-op in Brooklyn New York, which has 17,000 members. For a £25 annual membership and a commitment to work 4 hours a month in the shop, you receive a 20% discount on your shopping.
The idea is to to cut overheads by having no staff costs, and increase buying power with the number of members. They will source food from trusted suppliers in the Uk and Europe and support fair prices. It wont however be labeled as organic, as Potts Dawson doesn't want the shop to be seen as an over priced whole food shop (like my local branch of Wholefoods!).
Arthur Potts Dawson seems to have the perfect credentials to run a project like this, as he set up eco restaurant Water House. He is passionate about the project and would like to see the concept rolled out countrywide, but stresses that he sees it very much as a community project. "If it can be emulated, if people want to do it, then we’ll help them, but we can’t franchise it because it's a community project."
We love the idea of a local food co-op and will be popping along to their open day this Saturday, to check out the produce. Who knows, before long we could be setting up our very own supermarket!
The project will be the subject of a tv series on Channel 4 later this year.
72-78 lambs Conduit Street
London WC1 3LP