What is a Community Service Cooperative?

People ask us, what is a Community Service Cooperative?

Foodlands is officially registered as a community service cooperative. This is a special designation created in BC in 2007 through the Cooperative Association Act. Under BC law, community service co-ops have a similar status to that of non-profit societies.

As with all co-ops, community service cooperatives are based on the values of democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. Cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, caring for others, and mutual aid. In particular, Foodlands Cooperative of BC upholds and demonstrates the public and community interest for sustainable land use and is at the forefront of encouraging alternative forms of land ownership and practices that ensure our foodlands provide food security in perpetuity.

What is the difference between a regular cooperative and a community service cooperative? In the words of Foodlands’ co-founder, Heather Pritchard, “You could say a cooperative exists for the benefit of its members, whereas a community service cooperative exists for the benefit of the community.”

Community service cooperatives can apply for charitable status. According to lawyer Mary Childs (currently General Counsel for Tsawwassen First Nation but writing in her former capacity as Associate Counsel at Miller Thomson), of the 86,000 registered charities in Canada, just over 300 are community service cooperatives.

“The biggest category of charitable co-operatives”, wrote Mary, “is in early childhood education, operating preschools, nursery schools or daycares. Others operate skating rinks, community halls or playgrounds; while others have purposes that include operating seniors’ centres, providing education, delivering health services, advancing culture and the arts, preserving historic and natural sites, advancing international co-operation and operating an ambulance service.”

As many of you know, Foodlands currently has an application before CRA to obtain charitable status. It is our hope that advancing and preserving sustainably-stewarded foodlands in perpetuity for future generations will be also considered a vital charitable purpose for the benefit of all.