An Introduction to
Daily Bread Co-operative
Daily Bread started life in the Northampton parish of St Peters, Weston Favell. A group of nine committed Christians who had been meeting regularly in a house group since 1974 formed a vision of taking the Gospel of sharing and mutual support into a simple business environment. Their aim was to show that there is no contradiction between Jesus’ instruction to leave all that we have to follow him and the basic necessity of working together to meet worldly needs.
How to pursue profit without being greedy? How to generate wealth without compromising the teachings of the Gospel? How to balance individual freedom and creativity with collective responsibility to care for each other and for the wider community? These were questions which occupied the thoughts of these early pioneers.
To set the ball rolling, they formed a simple co-operative which would be owned and controlled by its workers. Daily Bread was registered as a co-operative business in March 1976 under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act, the first of its kind to adopt a new set of Model Rules for Industrial Common Ownership.
As for any business, capital had to be raised, premises found, and a business plan devised. Trading started on the 1st October 1980 with a working group of three and has grown steadily, including part time staff to 20 people and sales of over £1million in 2002.
Picture of food
Our Preamble has five main headings:-
1. work is fundamental
"We wish working together to be a creative experience. We will share the policy decisions that affect our work." We aim to earn our living in an enriching manner. As a workers' co-operative, each member owns a nominal £1.00 share. All policy decisions are taken at a weekly meeting which all the working group is expected to attend. Officers such as Chairperson and Manager are elected from among the members, thus ensuring that democracy is carried through to every level. Decisions are taken by those who have to put them into practice. Such participation is both fulfilling and necessitates respect for the views of each worker. Experience shows that with a working group of not more than 20, no further administrative structure is needed and an efficient working fellowship is attained. Further growth will be through other, independent co-ops.
As a Co-operative, we decide what to do with profits. These are either re-invested in the business or given away. We also decide how to pay ourselves. We have taken the decision to pay by need rather than status. This means that a person working as a packer who has a large family may receive more remuneration than the manager, who may have fewer family responsibilities. This is contrary to popular practice, but goes some way to meeting the practice of the early church "…and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need." Acts 2.45
Daily Bread remains true to its roots on the site where it was first opened 23 years ago: The Old Laundry on the Bedford Road, Northampton. This building is in grounds owned by St Andrews Hospital and retains some of the Victorian charm associated with its former function.
How do we pursue profit without being greedy? How do we generate wealth without compromising basic Christian beliefs? How do we combine individual responsibility with care for each other? It is these questions of how to organise Christian work with which Daily Bread Co-operative is primarily concerned. We have shown that it is possible for a viable business to have explicit social and spiritual objectives built into its organisation. We believe that a co-operative is the ideal vehicle for expressing concerns for fellow workers. The members of Daily Bread have agreed on a statement, called the Preamble, which expresses our religious and business values.
2. the world is fundamental
"We recognise that we are part of the rich world, but we do not accept that contemporary value judgements and trading patterns are unchangeable. Therefore, we shall give a significant percentage of our total remuneration to causes outside the co-operative, with special reference to Third World causes."
We are a business dealing in commodities, often imported from the Third World, and sometimes on unfair terms. All too often, most of what the shopper pays for goods goes to the retailer, wholesaler, packer or shipper. Very little makes it back to the people who do the hard work - the Third World farm workers. Accepting that, small as we are, we cannot dictate to multinational companies about terms of trade, we endeavor to help the developing world. We give aid as well as trade. A sum of money is set aside each year to be used in supporting various projects in developing countries, often in the shape of intermediate technology to help local producers. In this country, we actively support local businesses, especially those sharing our aims and beliefs.
3. commitment is fundamental
"Our inspiration comes from Jesus Christ. What we do is a venture of faith"
The Christian Gospel is the same as ever, but we must work it out in the world in which we live. We work out our Christian commitment through our social objectives and also through our daily worship. Worship is a central part of the working day and decisions about work and people often spring directly from it. Our time of prayer lasts for half an hour each day and is led by members on a rota basis. We are ecumenical and interdenominational. Out of our different backgrounds has come worship which has challenged and united us, particularly the communion service.
The Christian faith is not something to practice only on Sundays. Daily Bread Co-operative is a business geared to the world as it is, but rejecting some of the conventional commercial and industrial wisdom. The working members are all Christians, and we believe that a co-operative business structure is a Christian one. However, it is also possible for this to become a model for much of our society in the future - a seed which may enable more people to participate in a co-operative business.
4. food is fundamental
"We wish to trade as suppliers of wholefoods which have good nutritional value and are good value for money." We stock a variety of dried fruit, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, beans, pulses, grains, flakes, wholemeal and white flours, (together with fresh yeast for bread), pastas, spreads, oils, drinks, fruit juices and mueslis. From the humble beginnings when Daily Bread stocked only a few simple commodity items, we now stock over 3000 different products.
We support the organic movement and are registered with the Soil Association to manufacture and sell more than 400 organic products. We also have a wide range of gluten-free and wheat-free products for the benefit of those on special diets. We even have a number of cooked products, including popular flapjacks and granola breakfast cereal. Products are available in varying sizes, from small (100g) to bulk quantities at competitive prices. Wholefoods are natural, non processed foods which are without additives. We endeavor to provide information on their nutritional value and also have a series of food information leaflets, including recipes, and a wide selection of wholefood and vegetarian books. We will not stock anything that we know to be genetically modified.
5. other people are fundamental
We will support people recovering from mental disorders by offering them employment in a supportive setting." It is not enough just to look after ourselves, and mental illness is a woefully misunderstood problem. Our working group includes people who are recovering from mental disorders, or are in need of a supportive work environment these are associate workers, and this is often part of their rehabilitation . They work alongside members in what we hope is a relaxed and supportive setting. They are paid on the same basis as members of the co-operative and are expected to produce a good day's work in return. We can help them adjust to the discipline of a working life and get prepared to return to open society. It should be emphasised that we do not hold any professional qualifications relevant to working with the mentally ill. We simply try to provide a caring atmosphere in which associate workers and members can grow together.
Strive Overseas Ltd is a charity run in conjunction with our sister company Daily Bread Co-operative through which Third World and some other donations are made. It was an existing charity which had been defunct when Daily Bread took it over in 1984. Each year, Daily Bread pays to Strive through Gift Aid a sum which is a percentage of the gross wage bill. Since 1984, donations in excess of £120,000 have been made. In the past we have given to Mother Teresa, and to numerous works in India as well as schools in developing countries, orphanages, mission and humanitarian stations. Strive Overseas have had a long standing relationship with Intermediate Technology supporting specific projects throughout the developing world.
The Community Fund
The Community Fund was set up on the same basis as Strive, but with the aim of supporting local charities and other good causes.
Sources of other information
Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher first published in 1973
The Bible, a Description of the Early Church as described in Acts chapters 2 and 4.