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Abstract

This study examines the role that food consumer cooperatives play in the local food networks. Data are collected from three case studies with leading food cooperatives and a national survey of the general managers of food cooperatives. We identify the emerging business practices in local sourcing as a differentiation and member recruitment strategy for food cooperatives. Our analysis identifies several clusters of strategies used for local food procurement, based on the extent to which the co-op is involved in procurement activities upstream (at the farm), mid-stream (at the distribution center) or downstream (at the food cooperative). The results also show that when compared to other grocers, food co-ops have clear advantages in working with local producers and oftentimes play a key role in the producers’ business viability.

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