My Experience Joining a Local Veggie Co-Op

I randomly joined a veggie co-op and it started a new direction for me at work…

A few years ago, I was juggling returning to work part time and mum duties and it was all feeling quite overwhelming. I saw a call out on IWM looking for mums interested in forming a fruit and vegetable co-op and decided “why not?”. I would only have to shop every six weeks, otherwise I would pick up a box of fresh fruit and veggies from someone’s house in my local area. It seemed like a great way to meet more local mums, reduce my mental load about food shopping, and save money.

It’s been almost six years now and my co-op is still going strong. The best things have been connecting with local families, swapping storage tips and recipes (most of our kids are now past the finger food stage ?), and supporting the Asylum Seekers Centre with an extra box each week. Interestingly, while dads were a little resistant to shop at the beginning, half the shops are now done by the dads in our co-op. The kids pitch in with (un)packing the boxes too, so the whole family gets involved.

I have found being part of a co-op super rewarding and it inspired me to start a new direction in the work-side of my life. At work, I am a public health researcher, specialising in physical activity and health promotion.

My colleagues and I scoped out all the food co-ops in the Sydney region and found a diverse range of food co-ops, but most of them were located in areas of high socio-economic status. There were few food co-op options in disadvantaged areas of Sydney.

We also ran a survey on Facebook of parents and community groups, including Inner West Mums. Our study demonstrated that members of co-ops were more likely to meet the Australian guidelines for combined fruit and vegetable intake than non-members (consuming two fruits and five vegetables per day). This finding may mean that establishing food co-ops on a wider scale may be an effective community-based strategy for improving consumption of fruit and vegetables as well as reducing food insecurity.

My colleagues and I plan to develop this into a larger program of work to increase disadvantaged community’s access to fresh fruit and vegetables. I hope to be able to share our findings from the next phase with you in the future.

Thank you to my co-op friends for inspiring this work, to Inner West Mum admins for supporting us, and to all the Inner West Mums who responded to our survey.

If you are interested in reading more about this research, the journal paper can be accessed here

Guest author: Josephine Chau, is a public health researcher who focuses on physical activity and health promotion.

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