April 2, 2019

Alleviating Food Insecurity Via Cooperative Bylaws

Written By

Thomas E. Rutledge
Member, Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC

Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. continue to grow, even after the economy has rebounded from the Great Recession. Employee ownership offers a means to build community wealth. Employee ownership has historically been supported by people on both sides of the political aisle.3 Forms of employee ownership, including the worker-owned cooperative, create jobs rooted in the local community.

One aspect of the growing inequality is that many urban areas are “food deserts.” A food desert is a locality where people do not have access to affordable, healthy food. In some communities, one part of the solution to providing accessible food is the consumer-owned food cooperative, or community-owned grocery.   Legal scholars have discussed food cooperatives as examples of sustainable economic development and as a means of creating social identity. For instance, Paulette Stenzel, a law professor at Michigan State University, discusses the value of using food cooperatives as a grassroots means to create economic stability within a city, the existence of which has the effect of encouraging people to invest in their communities.  Nevertheless, while academic business and sociological articles have addressed food cooperatives head on, the scholarly legal literature on food cooperatives is limited. Thus, this Article aims to fill the gap in the legal literature. In particular, the country’s growing trend of setting up food cooperatives reflects the need to examine the drafting of bylaws for food cooperatives and the legal and business issues that arise within the process. This Article contributes to the body of business law articles and addresses several issues yet to be explored in the legal literature.


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