Passage Aragó stands as an oasis of tranquility in contrast to the overcrowding that characterizes the rest of the Eixample district. It is for this reason that a group of partners decided to establish Food Coop, the first (and so far only) cooperative supermarket in Barcelona. The idea of ​​associating in order to self-supply is not new and this type of supermarket has existed for decades in other capitals of the world. However, not many Barcelona residents know that there are also in the city. “We have no profit motive, we try to bring higher quality products to an affordable price and support the local producer”, 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 the same way: members pay an initial fee to enter (in Barcelona it is 10 euros), access higher quality products at a lower price and, in return, collaborate with the operation of the premises three hours a month. “These are simple tasks, such as restocking products or working at the checkout.” This system makes it possible to reduce operating costs and thus achieve more affordable prices. The main difference between Food Coop and its American predecessor is that membership is not a mandatory requirement. Anyone can enter to buy. But only members have access to the special reduced prices and can participate in the committees that choose which products are in the gondolas.

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

At Food Coop you can get almost all the essential products that are sold in a common supermarket, but with some exceptions. Fruits and vegetables are only local and seasonal. They also sell meat there, although it is not displayed in the gondolas. “We sell it to order, it is very delicate and generates a lot of waste”. One of the goals 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 away 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 the environmental quality requirements that are not required in other parts of the world. “The survival of our farmers is threatened by global competition which exerts strong pressure on prices – explains Esther, 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 has more than 17,000 members today. La Louve, opened in Paris in 2016, has around 6,000. In Spain, there are ten cooperative supermarkets. One of the largest is La Osa, in Madrid, and has around 1,500 members.

Since it opened in 2022, Food Coop has managed to gather 600 members and slowly aims to grow more and more. The cooperative already offers home deliveries by bicycle, thanks to a collaboration with the responsible delivery company Mensakas, and they will soon launch an online store.