Food Co-Op Guidelines

by Mary Wagner-Davis

This is a copy of the letter sent out to potential co-op members. This group has worked together for about 6 years. Deadlines are based on the fact that we had to place our orders on Wednesdays by 3 PM. We ordered once a month. Deliveries generally came on Mondays but were sometimes delayed so flexibility was needed.

Dear potential co-op member:
Thanks for calling me back about the co-op info. The following is the latest version of our "guidelines" and includes some additional details and suggestions for making ordering, sorting, and pickup run more smoothly.

Please read this and contact me with any questions.
This group is truly a co-op. Each member has a job to do. There are several jobs that are more or less permanent and others that rotate. The jobs that are permanent are the person who opens their home to receive the delivery, the person who compiles and makes the order, the person who obtains a produce sheet and coordinates shared items, computer entry, finances, and general overseer.

Permanent Jobs:

Receiving the delivery:
This one is pretty simple. You need to have garage space enough to fit the palette and everyone's orders. You'll need to stay home the better part of the day to be available when the truck comes. Someone from the sorting team should call you with an estimated time of arrival but the truck may arrive an hour or more on either side of that time.

Placing the order:
You will receive everyone's individual order and compile them, along with the shared items, into one order. Increase the number of an item ordered rather than duplicating items. The order is due by 3 PM Wednesday afternoon. When you're done with the order sheets, send them over to the delivery location.

You are responsibile for calling ahead and getting a produce sheet faxed. They are available on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Since we meet on Mondays, it is generally best to get the Wednesday sheet to have at the meeting and request the Monday sheet to check for price and availability changes. After the ordering meeting, you will compile the sharing sheets for the order. If there is not enough of any given item, it is up to you to decide whether or not to order that item. You may, if you are so inclined, call people who were not at the meeting and ask them if they'd like something. You may, if you are so inclined, decline to order anything that was not completed at the ordering meeting. Calling around can take a lot of time and we respect your choice. When you've completed your task, send the sharing sheets over to the delivery location.

Computer entry:
We have the ability to enter our orders on the computer, thus making it easier to reconcile our order with the invoice we receive. You enter in the information off the individual orders using the format provided. It is helpful for those sorting the order if you then generate one alphabetical list of all the items ordered, placing initials beside each item indicating who ordered it.

Generic reponsibilities:

Everyone uses the order form provided and fills it out as indicated for each monthly order. Please note the following:

  • Include the brand name for each item, i.e. Little Bear, Lundberg, etc.

  • "Quantity" indicates how many cases you want, not how many containers come in the case or how many pounds of rice in the bag.

  • Deliver a written copy of your order to the person making the order no later than 5 p.m. on the Tuesday preceding the delivery (the day after the ordering meeting). Her phone number is xxx-xxxx.

  • Please write clearly and include a rough total of your order.

Ordering Meetings
Ordering meetings are generally on the first Monday of the month at 9:30 a.m. We rotate locations. While it is not mandatory to attend, your being there makes it easier to coordinate sharing bulk items and produce. If you are unable to attend, it is your responsibility to contact the person placing the order by Tuesday morning if you want produce and to contact other co-op members if you have bulk items you'd like to share. If you have sharing that was not included at the meeting, contact the person compiling the order to let him/her know what to add to the sharing sheet.

This information must reach him/her by noon on Tuesday. If not, it will not get ordered.

Once the order comes in (generally Monday or Tuesday), those people who do not have a permanent job will come and help sort. We have a rotating schedule so everyone doesn't have to come each time. More information about how to sort is under Individual jobs.Everyone needs to pick up and pay for their order by 7 p.m. the day it arrives. We'll do our best to have totals prepared by the time you come. However, you will need to leave a blank check if the invoices are not ready and you will receive a call with the total as soon as we have totals. NOTE: If there is an emergency and you cannot pick up your order the day it arrives, please make arrangements for your frozen and perishable items.

With the increasing amount of frozen items ordered, it has become necessary for people to bring their own coolers (the larger the better). If you are ordering frozen or perishable items, drop off a cooler with by Sunday evening. Make sure it is big enough to fit all of your frozen and perishable items unless you don't mind them sitting out. This also makes it easier to identity individual member orders during sorting.

Individual jobs
I hesitate to give too many specific directions about sorting. My hope is that if everyone is clear about how things are done, fewer things will be goofed up. However, I don't want to confuse or cloud your minds with needless details. If it is your turn to sort, you are responsible for coordinating with your sorting partner(s). As a team, do the following:

  1. One of you needs to contact MPW at (800) 679-6733 to determine the delivery time. You can call as early as 7 a.m. Monday morning. Give them our customer number, 6301-2, and they'll give you an estimated time of arrival. As I noted above, the order is generally delivered on Monday, and occasionally on Tuesday. Notify the person receiving the delivery of the delivery time so s/he knows when to stay home.

  2. Set a time with your partner and let the person receiving the delivery know when you'll be coming. In general, it doesn't matter when you come. If your are unable to sort when the truck arrives, at least one of the sorting partners needs to be at the house when the truck arrives to check in the order and put perishables and frozen items away.
  3. NOTE: You'll need to ask about late night sorting. It is very disruptive to our children to have people coming in and out when they're trying to get to sleep, particularly when there are other children around.

  4. Check in the order and verify the MPW invoice against what we received. For example, if there are two cases of Vitasoy Vanilla on the palette, you check the MPW invoice to see that we ordered and were charged for two cases of Vitasoy Vanilla. Any discrepancies should be noted and, if possible, incorrect items returned with the driver. This is particularly important with frozen and perishable items. Usually, the driver will wait while you check in at least the frozen items. Cross off any items listed on the sharing sheets and individual orders that do not come in.

  5. Separate items-using the individual order and sharing sheets provided-and place them in each member's areas. Sort all individual items, produce, frozen, sharing, and bulk items before you leave (with the exception of ice cream/popsicles which can stay in the freezer). If everyone brings a cooler it will help identify whose stuff goes where. It's easier to identify Cynthia's big orange cooler than trying to find a sign with her name on it. Place an empty box near the cooler as a place to put the smaller items and sharing. Sometimes there will be boxes left over from the last order available next to the counter. Otherwise you will need to begin by sorting items that came in larger boxes.
  6. As you sort, check the item off the sorting list or member's order to indicate that you have given that item to the correct member. In the event that someone has not brought a cooler, put their perishables and frozen items together in a box next to their order. This will make sure that everyone gets everything they ordered and keep my freezer from running all day from multiple trips to collect things.

  7. After the order is sorted, break down any unused boxes for recycling (you can reserve a few boxes that are a good size and in good shape for the next time). Place newspaper used for packing in the recycling bin under the sorting counter near the door to the house. Throw away any non-recyclable items such as plastic wrap, wooden crate covers, etc. There are trash cans in the side yard. Put the palette in the side yard.

Some produce is ordered by the item but needs to be weighed so the invoice can reflect the true cost. Follow the list below. It may not be exhaustive.

Counted then weighed

  • cantaloupe and other melons
  • hard squashes like butternut or acorn
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • cucumbers

Sold by the item

  • lettuce
  • beets
  • green onions
  • corn
  • radishes
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • spinach

Produce is most commonly ordered and sold by the pound. If the item is not included under any of the above lists, consider how you would purchase the item in the market or ask your sorting partner. For example, you buy a head of lettuce and two butternut squash along with some apples. The lettuce is charged by the head, the butternut squash will be weighed together before charging you and the apples will just be weighed.

Sorting Sheets
Sorting sheets are divided into Frozen, Refrigerated, General Sharing, and Produce. The produce sheet has a divided box under each person's name. On one side of the box is the amount ordered, whether that be pounds or items.

You then weigh the items, if necessary, and write the amount given to each person in the other box. For example, one side of the box indicates 1 butter nut squash. You weigh the butternut squash, then write 3# (for 3 pounds) in the other box.

I'm hoping some of these ideas and general clarification will make things more peaceful around sorting time. There's bound to be some adjusting as we incorporate new people and get used to doing things differently. Hopefully, we can keep things running smoothly for all of us. If you have any ideas, suggestions or problems, please feel free to bring them up with me or at an ordering meeting.

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