A fresh start

A fresh start

2020 was a tough year for the University Fruit and Vege Co-op, with COVID-19 nearly shutting down the student-led initiative for good. After a lot of hard work from the previous administrator Kate De Boer, two new and enthusiastic admins, Georgia Karantze and Katie Sharp, have picked up where she left off. In this myView blog post, Katie and Georgia tell us how they’re hoping to restore the Co-op to it’s former (pre-COVID) glory.

Katie Sharp (Left) and Georgia Karanzte are Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Fruit and Vegetable Co-operative’s new administrators.

myView: What is the Fruit and Vege Co-op and how did it start up at the uni?

Georgia: The Fruit and Vege Co-op is a University wellbeing and sustainability initiative that aims to promote healthy eating to students by providing affordable, locally sourced produce each week.

Katie: The Co-op was originally started by a staff nurse, Catherine Nelson, who worked at Mauri Ora. As it grew and the vision expanded, it became a student-led, student wellbeing initiative, and now is overseen by the Manawa Ora—Student Wellbeing team

myView: How long have you been involved and why did you want to be part of it?

Georgia: I’ve been involved in the Co-op since October 2020.  I had been sick earlier in the year and became intolerant to a lot of different foods. Over lockdown I experimented with cooking, and fruits and veggies (especially carrots, yum!) were the most reliable sources of nutrition for me. I was so excited to discover the Co-op was looking for volunteer coordinators. I know how important it is to look after yourself and your body through food and I love being able to to give others the same opportunity!

Katie: I joined at the same time as Georgia, after stumbling across an ad for the job. I noticed how well it aligned with my studies and my values and fell in love with it straight away. It was (and still is) such a great way to get involved with and give back to the community. 

Katie and Georgia with some of their team of volunteers in the Hunter Lounge at Kelburn campus.

myView: What can students gain from joining the Co-op?

Katie: I fully believe that the Co-op is one of the Uni’s most underrated services. It is an extremely cheap way to get your fruit and veggies each week! It is only $12 per week, and the more orders we get, the bigger each order is for everyone—woohoo! It’s convenient and reliable, and there’s great variety every week. 

Even though we’re based at Kelburn, we deliver orders to all campuses so that all students can get their orders when they’re on campus.

myView: What was it like during the big lockdowns last year?

Georgia: Lockdown was really hard for the Co-op. It was closed for 20 weeks, until we were put back to alert level 1. We’re still struggling to rebuild back to the order numbers we were getting before COVID-19 shut us down, and order numbers are important to ensure the Co-op can actually happen each week.

Katie: Yeah, we took a hard hit to our order numbers and we are still seeing the effects of it today. Hopefully if we can slowly build our numbers back up and it becomes part of students’ and staff routines again then we’ll be back and flying.

A typical order from the Fruit and Vege Co-op. All of this costs students just $12.

myView: So how do you do that?  

Georgia: Something we are able to offer people now is more consistent variety each week (as we now have more discretion over what gets ordered each week), and we’re looking into sending recipes out with each order so you know what you can cook each week with the order. We’ve also worked out how to operate under alert level 2, which means we won’t be so easily shut down if we change alert levels again.

myView: What’s awesome about the Co-op community?

Katie: The Co-op community is awesome. Food brings people together and coming to get fruit and veggies each week is no different. We get to interact with students and staff from all over the University doing cool things. We get to see recipes and products of the week’s cooking of produce and also provide a volunteer platform. There is something amazing about being able to give back to your community, and the Co-op is a fun and easy way to do so. 

myView: So how do people join?

Georgia: Very easily. Just go to our webpage and fill in the form, tick the box for where you’d like to collect your veges from, and you’re away. No more rip-off supermarket vege prices!

Georgia Karantze is a fourth-year student doing a conjoint degree—LLB/BA majoring in Criminology. Katie Sharp is a third-year student double-majoring in Health Psychology and Health Promotion.

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