Food co-ops provide fresh, sustainable, organic produce, meat and dairy products that are locally sourced and in-season.

Food co-ops provide fresh, sustainable, organic produce, meat and dairy products that are locally sourced and in-season.In a recent Friday Fix post, we discussed which produce to buy organic. Those interested in an environmentally friendly, organic, fresh and local produce option should consider a food cooperative, or co-op.

Co-ops operate like a grocery store, but, as with community supported agriculture, or CSAs, they bring local farmers together to sell their organically grown produce, dairy products and meat directly to the consumer. In general, anyone who wants to shop at a co-op can, but community members who invest by buying shares or paying an annual fee get various benefits (specific to each co-op).

Speaking of benefits, from a nutritional standpoint, there are many. Seasonal, high-quality and fresh mean fruits and veggies are jam-packed with nutrients.

And, as Maria Petzel, senior clinical dietitian for the Pancreas Surgery Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center, notes, they can also get us outside our food comfort zone.

“Co-ops are a great way to try new fruits and vegetables that you might not have bought otherwise – maybe you’re intimidated to try something new or you’re used to buying the same things every week at your regular grocery store,” she said. “But with a co-op or CSA, if it’s part of your share, you’re more apt to try it, and you may even get recipes, too, so you have a whole new appreciation for something you wouldn’t have ordinarily tried.”

The benefits don’t stop there: Shopping a co-op or becoming a member is also socially responsible, it’s a great way to support small-scale agriculture efforts and it reduces your environmental shopping footprint.

If cost is a concern, remember that co-op shopping needn’t be whole-house grocery shopping. Be judicious in your selections and opt for a few fruits and veggies that you know are best to buy organic.

Find out where co-ops are in your area.

Are you a pancreatic cancer patient or caregiver? You can access comprehensive disease information, including diet and nutrition tips, recipes and a booklet on the subject – all reviewed and approved by renowned leaders in the field by contacting the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s one-on-one PanCAN Patient Services support service by phone or email.

Come back to our blog each week for more Friday Fix: Your Weekly Nutrition Supplement.