Unloading fruit and produce at the Shirley Community Centre.
The Cathedral Co-op's new van, dressed up for delivery around Christchurch.
Interest is rising in a healthy-eating programme that supplies affordable fruit and vegetables to Christchurch households.
The Cathedral Healthy Eating Co-op now has 850 members – with more signing up every week.
The cathedral enterprise has grown from a co-op begun by ChristChurch Cathedral marketing and development manager Craig Dixon 20 years ago when he was vicar of Bryndwr.
"Part of our programme is all about giving people affordable fresh produce," he says. "Another part is encouraging them to eat more healthy food."
The Cathedral office works with the Canterbury District Health Board's Community and Public Health to educate co-op members about nutrition and health.
Each member pays $10 a week for a bag of vegetables and a bag of fruit, which Craig orders from Turners and Growers early on Tuesday morning.
The produce is then delivered to four co-op hubs and bagged for distribution to more than 30 pickup points around the city.
The co-op has two vans, funded by an anonymous donor in Australia and the NZ Community Trust.
"We are not giving away food," Craig says. "You have to budget and pay for it – which is a far better solution than dishing out free food. That only creates dependency."
Craig says the spirit of the co-op is guided by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: "People will build houses and get to live in them, grow crops and eat them, live to old age..."
Buying to budget can be challenging, however, particularly during winter when a lot of produce is out of season.
The co-op deals with about 10 tonnes of produce a week. The "baggers" are a mix of volunteers from the cathedral community and businesses such as Telecom, Westpac and the George Hotel.
"Quite apart from the food value, the co-op helps bring the local community together," Craig says.
"When people come to collect their bags, they connect informally and share what's happening in their lives."
Phillipa Wilson, 51, of Shirley, has been a part of the co-op for a year.
"It's much better than going to the supermarket," she says. "I'm on a strict budget, so it makes all the difference for me."
The co-op gained 60 new members over the past week.
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