Ripon Food Mill
          Coop
How the Co-op Works:  Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

1.  What is it?
The Ripon Food Mill Co-op is a cooperative buying club of about 35 Ripon-area families, who combine wholesale buying power to order from a huge selection of mainly natural and organic foods and personal care products, at prices generally below supermarket level. We've been around since 1978.

2.  Where does the food come from?
Our sole supplier is the Racine (Wis.) warehouse of United Natural Foods, Inc. (abbreviated UNFI everywhere on this web site). UNFI is the largest wholesaler of organic and natural foods in the U.S. We can order anything in their inventory (provided their Racine warehouse stocks it), over 30,000 products! The co-op receives deliveries by truck once every four weeks, at which time members pick up their orders; there is no storefront.

3.  How do I find out what's available?
Two price list catalogs of UNFI's inventory are published on UNFI's ordering web site. The Buying Club Full Listing has UNFI's entire inventory, including product numbers, minimum order size, regular price, etc. The monthly Buying Club Specials price list is much shorter, with products on sale each month and a variety of useful information about UNFI. Both publications are available free on-line in PDF and Excel spreadsheet formats. The monthly Specials sale flyer is also available in a printed paper edition and can be ordered a month in advance (cost is about 90 cents).

UNFI's web site has information on each product in their huge inventory, including prices and ingredients, and is searchable. To access this you need a user ID and password, which Co-op members receive when they join. For details on how to get product information, go to the co-op's Ordering Information page.

4.  Are any foods sold in bulk?
UNFI sells some foods in bulk packaging at lower prices. Many are in quantities small enough to be useful to individuals. Individual co-op members can arrange to share any bulk or by-the-case products (see #7 below).

5.  What's not available?
No fresh produce or fresh meats or fish are available, but UNFI carries frozen meat, fish, and produce, and a full line of refrigerated products (e.g., dairy).

6.  What about minimum orders?
Most food products come by the case (quantity/case varies). Some can be ordered in a partial case, with a required minimum of 3 (designated "M3" in the inventory list); a few can be bought individually. Most personal care products (e.g., shampoo, toothpaste) and supplements (e.g., vitamins) are sold individually. The minimum order for each product is specified in the price list catalogs. However, beyond UNFI's requirements the Food Mill Co-op does not require any minimum for an individual to order.

7.  Can I share products?  What if I don't want a whole case of apricot nectar or 10 pounds of bulk linguine?
Definitely! The Food Mill Co-op has an easy way of sharing cases and bulk products among its members (UNFI calls sharing "splits" on its web site). Sharing is handled using a web page on Google Sheets, where members post their requests. Members receive the web address when they join (it is also in all routine co-op e-mails).

8.  What does membership cost?
Prospective members can order at no charge for a one-month trial. New members pay a one-time $5 fee for joining (billed on their second order), with no annual fee after that.

9.  Do I have to work?
As a solely volunteer organization, we in the co-op hope that all members are willing to help out; there are no employees to pick up the slack. We rely on member commitment to our buying club to make sure there are enough volunteers so all needed jobs get done. Most jobs are on delivery day (e.g., unload the truck, sort orders, divide bulk products, staff the checkout desk). Other tasks handled by co-op members include electronically submitting the order, maintaining the web site, etc. The greatest need is helping out on delivery day, so that's where new members usually start. The time commitment is not burdensome: one hour or less once every four weeks. You must be available at the time you're needed, but members unable to work as scheduled can make personal (often reciprocal) arrangements with other members or friends or family to fill in for their work assignment and/or pick up their order.

10.  How are prices figured?
All products start with the current list price shown on the UNFI web site and in the UNFI price lists (both the monthly Full Listing and monthly Specials).
When United Natural Foods invoices the Food Mill Co-op, they give us a discount based on our sales volume. Currently this is 10%; it is recalculated by UNFI periodically. Products on sale do not receive this volume discount, since they are already discounted.
The Food Mill Co-op currently passes along to its members the full 10% volume discount on non-sale products. This is subject to change; at times in the past the co-op has had to keep 1% of the discount to pay the co-op's (minimal) expenses.
Pricing is automatically calculated on member invoices.

11.  How often do orders come in?
Orders are delivered by truck every four weeks (not monthly) on a Tuesday morning, currently around 7 am. Member orders must be turned in by 5 pm the previous Monday (i.e., 8 days ahead); an e-mail reminder is sent in advance. The order/delivery schedule is set by United Natural Foods, and is posted on the co-op's web site as well as on the Sharing List page on Google Sheets. A confirmation of the truck arrival time is e-mailed to members the day before delivery. On rare occasions the schedule may change, due to a holiday or adverse weather.

12.  How do I order?
Co-op members place their orders on-line on the UNFI web site. A required username and password are e-mailed to new members when they join. Advantages of on-line ordering include speed and ease, ability to change the order any time up until it is submitted to UNFI, and the ability to print an invoice prior to delivery. The UNFI web site includes an electronic version of the price list (including sales), for both the current month and usually the next month. For instructions on how to order on-line, go to:  http://foodmill.bigw.org/Ordering.html.

13.  And how do I receive my order?
Members are notified of the exact truck arrival time by e-mail a day in advance; it is currently around 7 am on every 4th Tuesday. To receive your order, go to the delivery location (the basement of St. Peter's Church on Houston Street, Ripon). If your co-op work involves delivery day, plan to arrive just before the truck is scheduled to arrive (especially if unloading). Members unpacking and sorting the order should arrive 15 minutes after the truck.

Orders are usually ready to be picked up starting about 30 minutes after truck arrival; they cannot be picked up until sorting is completed. Currently the designated order pickup times are 7:30-10 am and 4:30-6 pm. Orders are stacked by name with an invoice, which must be paid at time the order is picked up; cash and personal checks are accepted, but not credit cards. Individual invoices are available on the UNFI web site starting about 24 hours before delivery, and can optionally be printed. Members must check their own order for accuracy, and pick up their order during the designated order pickup times. A hand truck is available to help load vehicles.

14.  What if I have an emergency, and can't pick up my order?
If you cannot pick up your order due to a personal emergency, notify the cashier scheduled to be on duty (listed in this web site's home page, and also in the e-mailed delivery notice prior to each delivery). It would help both you and the co-op most if you arrange for someone to pick up your order for you (even if they can't pay for it). If you can't do that, the cashier will store your order. Non-perishable items will be placed in a labeled box in the co-op's closet in the church basement where members pick up orders. Perishable items will be placed in the basement church kitchen refrigerator, but their security cannot be guaranteed. Such orders can only be picked up when the church is open for Sunday services or during office hours MWTh. When you pick up your order, there will be an invoice with the amount due; this should be paid immediately. Make a check payable to Ripon Food Mill Co-op, and deliver it to Meg Schwemmer's house at 723 Woodside Avenue in Ripon. If nobody is home, leave it in an envelope at the inner door, and contact her to tell her of the payment. This is needed promptly so the co-op can close its books on the delivery.
IMPORTANT: When orders are not picked up at the normal delivery time, it creates problems and extra work for a number of co-op volunteers. The options above should only be used as a last-ditch backup for a rare personal emergency which makes it impossible to pick up the order. Do NOT contact St. Peter's Church or its staff. They are not part of the co-op's operations and will not be able to help.


15.  OK, how do I join?
To join, contact the co-op's answer person, Kat (katgriffith@hotmail.com, 748-3923), and arrange to pay the one-time $5 membership fee (it will be billed with a new member's second order, since the first order is a free trial). New members are added to the co-op's the membership list, and to the co-op e-mail list for announcements and news items. Members receive an annual membership directory, a username and password to access the UNFI web site so they can order on-line, and information on how to access the co-op's Sharing List.

16.  Questions?
Call or e-mail the co-op's answer person, Kat (748-3923, katgriffith@hotmail.com), or the co-op's co-orderers (Diane Beres, 920-579-2132, beresd@ripon.edu; or Katy Kussrow, 851-3882, kussrowk@ripon.edu).


This web page was last revised on 5 June 2018 by Eric Godfrey.