How it all began
In 1999, the ‘True Food Club’ first came together to source affordable organic food. Reading’s wholefood shops closed when the town centre was redeveloped so members of the Club pooled their resources to buy organic foods in bulk.
The Club grew, and within two years was buying a wider range of goods and operating more as a market rather than a buying club. The Club moved to the Rising Sun Arts Centre and members and supporters invested in a wider range of supplies and new equipment.
In 2004, pilot markets were held at community venues across Reading with support from Reading Community Enterprise Agency, Berkshire Community Foundation, Reading Primary Care Trust and Reading Voluntary Action, and grants from the Community Social Fund. On 15th December 2004was formally registered as The True Food Community Cooperative Limited.
Between 2004 and 2009,operated mobile markets around the Reading area from a small warehouse in south Reading. New warehousing facilities were established in Emmer Green, north Reading, which could also serve as an office and shop space. was awarded a Big Lottery “Local Food” grant of £100,000. This was awarded over the years 2009-2013 and paid for the cost of refurbishing the shop premises, buying a van, rebranding, a Local Food Coordinator post, and an extensive survey of shoppers and the community. was awarded an additional grant from the Big Lottery towards the cost of bakery equipment and a Baker post, in 2013. Further investment during 2013 came from members in the form of ‘Loanstock’.
During this period efforts were focused on developing sources of local food, building the shop’s customer base, further improving premises and making the mobile markets financially viable. Sales and takings grew steadily during this period.
Despite this, by mid-2013 it was clear thatcould not continue without grant funding unless steps were taken to further increase takings and cut costs. By early 2014 there had been significant improvements in the running of the business. However, the difficult decision was taken to stop the markets and to focus on making the shop financially successful.
The business is now much more financially healthy and secure –has shown that it is possible to run a successful and viable business based on strong ethics and principles.