For more information, including the current price list, go to the Food Co-op page!
In the twelve months since I last gave an annual report on the Benalla food Co-op, there have been some considerable changes and events take place.
We had our first open day on 3rd May in 2011, having arrived at exactly ten years of operation.
In 2011, when we had our first open day with twelve members and 28 products on offer, we did not envisage the successful outcome we now experience. Apart from the aims of the co-operative that you will be familiar with, I believe a huge contributing factor is an underlying appreciation at the food coop for the friendly atmosphere when shopping, and the empowerment of an independent group running it. It has enabled friendships to develop and provides an opportunity for like minded people to share company and commitment.
We now stock 120 food items determined by request, quality of the product, availability, from where that product is sourced, and of course, popularity.
Membership sits at around 70. This fluctuates over any given year, but importantly there is a large group of regular shoppers requiring us to open once per week.
Over the years, I have particularly enjoyed researching products and discovering new suppliers. There has always been opportunity to introduce new products and discontinue others not so popular. In all we have twelve product suppliers. We are proud to support many valued local and regional producers in our district such as King Valley Walnuts, Florence Court Olive Oil from Benalla, Lima East honey, nuts and seeds from the Pumpkin Seed Company, and our latest addition, Apple Cider Vinegar from Stanley.
There are a huge number of tasks required with running the food co-op. Duty managers, duty assistants, computer operators, taking delivery of products, unpacking products, paying the bills and the list goes on. It was always my belief that by spreading these tasks amongst the members, we are in the true sense a 'co-operative', run by the members. This has enabled us to keep the prices affordable whilst offering high quality products, benefitting all who participate.
Drastic changes to our operational procedures required to comply with COVID restrictions in 2020, became a serious focal point. We were no less busy than usual with a large number of community members joining the food co-op throughout the early part of COVID restrictions. In recent times we have been able to relax many of those procedures whilst continuing to maintain a COVID safe environment.
Ten years is good reason for some celebratory events, the first being, and a lucky door prize for the tenth customer, who shopped on the 3rd May 2021. Then on the 4th June, food co-op members are invited to attend a dinner to celebrate 10 years of operation along with my retirement.
After ten years as coordinator, I felt it was time that I hand over to someone else. Susanne Bennett came to mind and after some thought, she agreed to take on the position for which we can all be grateful. We can look forward to a committed member who will bring leadership and a lovely presence to the forefront. I wish Susanne all the best, lots of fun and with the knowledge that you have the support of all the committee with you.
I feel indebted to our dedicated committee members, who are committed to the well being of the food co-op and for me personally, are a wonderful group of people who are prepared to work through any issues that arise. We would not be operating today if it wasn’t for your encouragement, suggestions and support. I am profoundly grateful to have worked with you all.
Christine Holme's retirement from Benalla Food Cooperative - a letter from Chris incorporating 'a little history of the Food Coop'
'Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Dear Food Co-op Members,
I am writing to report to you that after ten years, I have decided to step down and retire from being the Benalla Food Co-op Coordinator. I thought it would be fitting to also give a little history of the developments over the years as to how the food co-op evolved.
It has been over ten years (2010) since I had the first thought to start a food co-op in Benalla. I flagged the idea at a forum on sustainability organised by the then, Benalla District Environment Group (now BSFG). Nothing came of it for a while and I didn’t want to take this on alone. But one by one a few others gave expressions of support.
They were Kathy Murphy, Lynne Seaman (relocated to Brisbane) and Tanya Walker. We met together over a period of 9 months to discuss a plan of action. Venue, freight, supplier, food health and safety were just a few major considerations that had to be worked through.
Initially, without any finance, we relied on setting up costs coming from a membership fee of $10 and members volunteering seed money. This was paramount to getting started and significant as it demonstrated the willingness of the small number of interested people wanting to make it work. Along with the seed money, we were also supported by the Brunswick Uniting Church who donated $500 to our cause (they had been running a successful food co-op for some years).
I hunted around for a venue, the most difficult aspect of us being able to function, and wrote to the Benalla Uniting Church Council. Not only were they happy for us to use the old kindergarten hall, but also allowed us to store our products permanently, whilst only having to pay hire costs on an hourly basis. We are most grateful to the Uniting Church for the ongoing use of this space.
Our initial set-up was pretty basic with an array of coloured recycled food tubs we collected from hotels and restaurants, and Peter and I sourced old rickety wardrobes in which to store our products.
Finally we were up and running as an 'action group' under the banner of the Benalla Sustainable Future Group.
We had our first open day on 3rd May in 2011 and although we only had 12 members, we felt we were off to a good start and were able to purchase 28 different products. We opened one morning per month.
In 2012, we were successful in receiving some funding from Benalla Rural City Community Grants Program, and able to purchase three lockable metal cupboards and a computer. In no time our membership expanded and the number of products increased. With the small mark up to cover costs, we were soon able to repay members for their investment of seed money.
We believed it was important to keep the prices affordable, whilst offering highest quality of products.
In 2013 The Food Co-op was featured on Channel 10 Shepparton Weeknights TV program.
From our small working group, we established a committee of six members in October 2014, with Sonia Bourke and Judy Schwarzman coming on board.
By 2015, with membership increasing to 70, a demand for more products and food sales doubling, we extended the open days from one day per month to two. Two of the original committee members resigned (Kathy and Lynne) and so we were back to a committee of four plus Peter Holmes as BSFG/food co-op treasurer.
We celebrated five years of operation in 2016. As time went on, other interested members joined the committee - Loren Atkinson (2016), followed by Rhona Rose, Rosalie Thomas and Julie McPherson.
The Benalla Food Co-op currently has just over 70 members and 118 different products. All products are chosen very carefully with environmental and ethical considerations, along with supporting local and regional producers where possible. The co-op has been running for nine and a half years.
The prompt implementation of COVID 19 safe procedures at the Benalla Food Co-op, has meant we were able to keep operating through-out this disturbing time of uncertainty and lockdowns. I had many consultations with Callum Morrison, BRC Public Health Officer, fine-tuning the procedures for the Food Co-op, to continue serving our members. Keeping people safe was of prime importance. We were reassured by Callum's comment that “we are providing an essential service". Numerous procedures have been implemented, along with the basic hygiene principals such as washing hands, physical distancing, not coming in to the food co-op if you are unwell and limiting the customers to three at a time, which was well under 4 sq metres per person. Earlier on, I think we might have been the only place in Benalla that didn't run out of toilet paper!
A short video was produced illustrating our procedures. I would like to thank Sonia Bourke for putting this together.
The Benalla Food Co-op currently has just over 70 members and 118 different products. All products are chosen very carefully with environmental and ethical considerations, along with supporting local and
With the advent of COVID 19 it became a priority to have and encourage the preferred digital method of online payment. Each member who operates the computer system has been trained up to do this. I would like to thank Tanya Walker and Peter Holmes for overseeing this transition.
A number of weeks ago I put a number of options to the committee as to how we could continue running the coop in the advent of worsening outbreaks of COVID. Each committee member contributed thoughtful and suggestive responses ranging from how we currently manage to the use of online ordering and the use of paper-bags. The majority of committee members were happy with the current procedures as long as COVID numbers remained low in Regional Victoria.
I would like to acknowledge there have been a few general members who have chosen not to shop at the food co-op during this time. Other than that, during the COVID restrictions, the food co-op has been busier than the same period of time last year, and we have had fourteen new members join the co-op, which is quite astonishing.
If you would like to check financial statements refer to the treasurer's report (BSFG Annual Reports, when published).
I would like to thank all the duty managers and computer operators who do a wonderful job carrying out extra responsibilities. We have had a number of new members take this on.
I would like to thank Julie McPherson who has the relentless job of organising the roster, Rhona Rose who keeps you up to date on a weekly basis, Loren who sometimes takes delivery of our orders along with Sonia who takes delivery of special items such as Tradewinds and dried fruits from Mildura.
Lastly, I would like to thank all our amazing dedicated committee members, who are committed to the well being of the food co-op and for me personally are a truly wonderful group of people who offer support, make suggestions and are prepared to work through any arising issues. I am profoundly grateful to be working with you all.
Benalla Food Co-op Coordinator
Benalla Food Co-op COVID-19 Update
It’s hard to fathom the complexity of the globally challenging time COVID-19 has delivered to us all. As to the running of the Benalla Food Co-op, we were questioning ourselves - How will we manage the running of the co-op? Customers by appointment? Reduce open hours? Should we close?
Keeping people safe was of prime importance. Emails were flying around between committee members who were diligent and supportive of keeping it going if we could. After consultation with Callum Morrison, BRC Public Health Officer, we fine-tuned the procedures for the Food Co-op to continue serving our members. Many of our customers have been shopping for nearly nine years, so it would be a grave shame if we had to shut altogether. I was reassured by Callum's comment that, “We are providing an essential service". Callum was very impressed with our efforts and at no time indicated a necessity to close the co-op.
Numerous procedures have been implemented, along with the basic hygiene principals such as: no one entering until hands have been washed in hands free basin, no touching of body, not coming in to the food co-op if you are unwell and limiting the customers to three at a time, which was well under four square metres per person.
Any points of possible direct contamination between customers, customers' containers, duty members, and food co-op products has been eliminated by wearing gloves and thoughtful procedures that might look bizarre, if not dealing with a pandemic crisis. We have also had to tell our customers that children must remain home.
Another idea that came up was to make a short video. If you wish to view the video outlining our procedure, Ctrl and Click on the following link: Benalla Food Co Op COVID-19 procedures.mp4
The committee had also been looking into an electronic payment system at the food co-op. With the advent of COVID-19 it became a priority as this is now the preferred method of payment. This required purchasing a new iPad and Square card reader, downloading the Square app on to the iPad, and transferring a lot of data to the new system as well as sorting through some teething issues. Cash or cheque payments are also still available, as we are using an inand-out cash tin system to avoid cross handling of cash.
Members have been patient, supportive and as committed as always to continue shopping at the food co-op.
Benalla Food Co-op Coordinator
This month, the Benalla Food Co-operative will have been operating for exactly eight years.
We started in May 2011 with 12 members, offering 20 different products and opening once per month. We used old wooden wardrobes for food storage and didn’t have a computer. News spread mainly by word of mouth, along with an article in the Benalla Ensign.
We now have 84 members, offer 115 products and recently commenced opening four times per month. In the coming month we will see our 4,000th customer shop at the food co-op.
We have decided to celebrate our 8th year with a social function where we will share a meal and a recipe.
It is heartening to see many young families attend the Co-op. We all enjoy the many benefits of good quality food products, shopping in a relaxed friendly atmosphere and knowing we are contributing to less food miles and packaging, and where possible, supporting local producers.
Food Co-op Coordinator
This article is based on Christine's report to the BSFG Annual Report presented at the AGM on 23 May 2019.
Benalla Food Co-op Update
The Benalla Food Co-op is continuing to be a wonderful, healthy organisation.
With the four month absence of our long term coordinators, Peter and Christine Holmes and Tanya Walker, the committee took over the mammoth effort of running the food co-op. We were all amazed by the intense work load, which previously had largely fallen on such a small number of shoulders. We welcome Peter, Christine and Tanya back home and are determined that their load will be spread in the future.
Thanks to Wendy Baker for taking over the job of paying the co-op bills in Peter’s absence.
Recently I spent time showing our coop to people considering starting a food co-op themselves.
The experience of watching the co-op from the sidelines and explaining how it runs, filled me with pride. The visitors commented on the diversity of our members and the very happy, engaged and friendly atmosphere of the co-op.
We are delighted that our food coop continues to expand and fulfil our stated aims, which are ‘to encourage the responsible use of our earth’s resources, reduce packaging and excessive handling of food, support Australian growers where possible, reduce food miles and reduce food costs.
Committee Member Benalla Food Co-op
Regular updates on sustainability issues of concern to BSFG members in Benalla and North East Victoria and on key events in the BSFG calendar.
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of North East Victoria, and pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.