RESIDENTS are reaping the benefits of healthy living after numerous food co-ops started cropping up in their areas.
East Durham Trust runs five food co-ops in the former Easington District and its aim is to open another three by the end of next year.
County Durham and Darlington Primary Care Trust has funded the facility at venues in Blackhall, Haswell, Shotton, Horden and Hawthorn, with cash available for more in other areas.
And health-conscious residents are making the most of the service, with scores regularly taking advantage of the cheap fresh produce on offer.
Barbara Chrisp, East Durham Trust’s community food co-op development officer, was recently at a food co-op session at Blackhall Community Centre.
She said: “The Blackhall food co-op has been running since the end of February and it’s been doing really well.
“We are working with the community centre and do taster sessions making up a recipe like soup and giving out free recipe cards and bags of ingredients so people can take them home.
“They have been regularly getting 30 customers each week.”
The newest facility opened at Horden’s St Mary’s Church at the end of March.
Ms Chrisp, from Wingate, added: “Horden’s service has got some support from Accent Housing and East Durham Homes has given us some funding to give their residents a £2 discount each week.
“We are looking at that for Blackhall as well.”
Ms Chrisp, who also runs her own business called The Cabbage Patch, which won last year’s Mail-backed If you can we can entrepreneurial challenge, said: “It’s all about cheap and easy healthy living, working in communities that have little or no availability of fresh fruit and vegetables.
“In some places, it really has been a lifeline for them.
“The reason we set up the food co-ops is so things are affordable to the public and so we can keep prices as low as we possibly can.”
The food co-ops accept vouchers, including the Healthy Start coupons for mums with children under four years old.
The service is also looking for volunteers to help run the food co-ops.
They are held at Blackhall Community Centre, in Hesleden Road, on Mondays between 11am-1pm, St Mary’s Church, in Blackhills Terrace, Horden, on Wednesdays from 10am-noon, Oscar’s Cafe in Potto Street, Shotton Colliery, every day from 8am-1pm, Haswell Mencap at the Lisa Dixon Centre, in Burt Close, Haswell on Thursdays and Fridays from 10am-2pm and at Hawthorn Community Centre, in Hawthorn on the first and third Thursday of each month from 11am-1pm.
For more information about the food co-ops, call (0191) 5693511.