The Urban Co-Op Limerick – Anne (centre) and the staff and members of the The Urban Co-Op pictured above. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick
The Urban Co-op Limerick is a social enterprise with a focus on nourishment and healthy sustainable living
Its mission is to be a model co-operative, supplying great produce and enhancing the lives of their members, customers, and the community.
Anne Maher, Managing Director, The Urban Co-Op & Wellness Hub said, “As we have erred towards organic and good quality foods from the beginning 10 years ago, it has naturally attracted people interested in wellness, and from that it has evolved into a community wellness hub as well as a community grocery.”
At the heart of the movement is a commitment to support organic produce, free from synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), all while holding animal welfare to high standards and promoting biodiversity.
Anne added, “We want our community to thrive. Organic food is very good quality food produced to the highest standards. And it’s also very nutrient-dense, so you get value for your money.”
The feeling within the group is that organic food should not be something out of reach of the average diet, it shouldn’t be seen as a luxury good but should be an investment made in the health and well-being of consumers with Anne saying, “Your health is your wealth”.
Geraldine Fitzpatrick, Operations and Wellness Hub Manager said people should buy organic because of “the taste”.
Giving an example, Geraldine spoke about a conversation with her mum, saying, “I would get the organic chicken and I’d do roast chicken. And she goes, ‘This is like chicken in the old days, but we didn’t have organic’. And I went, ‘you did. You did, You just didn’t need to call it organic because there were no chemicals.'”
Anne added, “Organic food should be normal in our diet, and we want to encourage the farmers to produce organically. We want the consumers to purchase organically and consume organically, and make that the norm. We provide 7 day access to organic food and we embed the organic philosophy here as part of a whole wellness model and offer in house lifestyle therapies with organic at its centre.”
Selling organic wholesome food and providing space for holistic therapies, seven days a week, creates a positive gateway for the community to enhance wellbeing. Inspiring consumers to be consciously sustainable, through nourishing food, zero waste practices, and positive life-style initiatives. The focus is on co-operative relationships with consumers and suppliers, encouraging a strong participatory culture including inclusive volunteer opportunities.
Tracy O’Donoghue, Director and Lead Therapist of The Body Tree said, “We run a multi-disciplined, therapy clinic that’s open to the community. No appointments, you just walk in, so it’s open to anyone from the public with pain, whether it’s mental, physical, or emotional. So people would arrive in to us, we assess them, and we would recommend multiple treatments to them.”
Tracy told I Love Limerick working alongside the Urban Co-Op and Wellness Hub was an “absolute perfect fit”, saying, “Not only does everybody here have the same ethos of community health and wellness, but it fits in that we recommend our clients to come in here and do their shopping because we are promoting an overall ethos of health and wellness and look at people holistically to include diet, nutrition and the a social aspect which is very important for community wellness.”
Regular customers were happy to talk about their reasons for buying organic, with one customer, Maura Hanley telling I Love Limerick, “When we’re talking about the environment, it’s just making a conscious choice to sort of say, buy things that are better for the environment. And if they’re better for the environment, I think they’re better for me. As the saying goes, food is your first medicine.”
Alan Briggs, another regular customer said, It’s good for you. It works, and it gives me a chance to explain to the children where it’s come from, and what it is. This helps them, every day.”
Offering more than nourishing food and therapies, The Urban Co-Op is a blueprint for community-driven change that promotes sustainability which the group hopes can be remodelled throughout Ireland, but as the world begins to follow this food revolution Limerick can proudly showcase what the group is offering.
Speaking about The Urban Co-Op being at the forefront of the organic movement in Limerick, Anne concluded, “We are leading the charge and want to encourage farmers to regenerate the land and nourish us from within. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Limerick was a bio-district for organic food? We are ready to inspire other communities to be that centre or market outlet for organic farmers and help our communities thrive again.”