Blue Mountains Food Co-op is 40 years old

Blue Mountains Food Co-op started life in Tara Lilburne's Katoomba garage back in the early 1980's when some like-minded families got together to remedy the lack of wholefoods available in the mountains.

Front line worker at the Food Co-Op Rebekah Norton. Photo by Maja Baska.

Front line worker at the Food Co-Op Rebekah Norton. Photo by Maja Baska.

From those small beginnings the idea grew, until today, with two shops in the heart of Katoomba and over 2400 members, it is the largest food co-op in Australia.

This year the Co-op celebrates its 40th anniversary - a triumph of community spirit and support for good food that doesn't cost the earth.

"As a member-owned, not-for-profit organisation the Co-op offers Mountains' residents an alternative to buying from the big supermarkets and chain stores," says Amy Tyson, Blue Mountains Food Co-op assistant manager.

"But the Co-op is much more than a place to shop for organic fruit and veg. The Co-op is an inclusive and welcoming community hub. Our members and customers identify with Co-op values of equality, fairness, support for the environment, and giving back."

The Co-op donates 10 per cent of its annual surplus to charitable organisations each year.

"It's nice to know that when you shop at the Co-op part of every purchase you make goes toward supporting environmental, social justice and food security related causes," she says.

And you don't need to be a member to shop at the Co-op.

"Everyone is welcome at the Co-op," says Ms Tyson.

"Financial members benefit from a 10 per cent discount on their shopping and are able to vote for directors of the board and have a voice in determining major issues, but we understand it can be difficult to afford organic food and the cost of a membership. To that end we extend the 10 per cent member discount to all seniors and concession card holders every Wednesday all year round."

As an essential service, Blue Mountains Food Co-op continues to serve the community during lockdown providing fresh organic, and local fruit and veg, bulk wholefoods, a large range of organic and diet-specific grocery lines and eco-friendly essential items.

"There's no denying it has been a stressful time of late and we have had to adapt to meet the needs of our members and the greater community," Ms Tyson says.

"We recently launched a Call and Collect service for anyone wanting to avoid face-to-face shopping. And we've got a giveaway running on social media right through August to win a weekly box of fruit and veg and essentials.

"We're hoping that people who enter the competition will think about someone they know who may need assistance and pay it forward if they win." To enter the competition, go to the Co-op's Instagram or Facebook page @bmfoodcoop and follow the instructions."

Supporting local has always been a big part of the Co-op's ethos.

"Among the most popular items we sell are our fresh, local fruit and veg, and award-winning Blue Mountains raw honey. We support a growing number of local chemical-free and regenerative farms and hyper-local backyard growers which means we can offer the freshest seasonal produce every week," Ms Tyson explains.

"At the moment we have a variety of specialty mushrooms from Wentworth Falls, herbs and leafy greens from Springwood, lettuce from the Megalong Valley, broccoli from Richmond, and loads of juicy backyard lemons. We also have a great range of immunity boosting foods and stress-relieving herbal teas which are perfect for these trying times."

Blue Mountains Food Co-op is open 7 days a week in Ha'penny Lane Katoomba, just behind the post office. Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm and Sat 8.30am to 5pm and Sunday 10 to 4.30pm. To contact the shop for orders call 4782 5890.