The Real Food Store is the first community-owned grocery store in Exeter, UK The store was initiated in 2009 by Transition Exeter, a grassroots localist initiative affiliated with the global Transition Town movement. Given its grassroots beginnings, it’s not surprising that Real Food is much more than your average store: it’s a vibrant hub reconnecting local consumers with local producers, and reweaving the fabric of local interdependence severed in the process of globalization.
Since it’s opening in 2011, the store has been committed to forging strong relationships with sustainable local farmers and food enterprises, and to creating a robust local supply chain that reduces the distance between farm and table. Close to 100% of the store’s suppliers are from South West England, with 70% sourced from within the surrounding county of Devon (one of its main suppliers is a mere three miles away from the store). By sourcing locally, the Real Food Store recirculates money in the community, and helps to revitalize the local foodshed.
The store is owned and governed by Exeter Local Food Ltd, a Community Benefit Society with over 300 voting shareholder-members from the community, making it one of the largest community-owned and managed food enterprises in England. (A Community Benefit Society, or ‘BenCom’, is an alternative, not-for-profit business model in the U.K. for enterprises that exist first and foremost to benefit their communities.)
As a BenCom, Exeter Local Food was able to offer community investment shares to raise the capital needed to open the store — a great example of how localizing investment can generate vital community assets that pay important social dividends. In keeping with the store’s social mission, Real Food also organizes community and educational events, including bread-baking classes and supper evenings. The upshot: as it helps to rebuild the local food economy in Devon, the Real Food Store provides a much-needed alternative to the global industrial food system.
To learn more, visit The Real Food Store’s website.